One participant was divorced and living with her children in her father’s house. She was very passive at home and never objected to the decisions that other family members imposed on her, even when she disagreed. The divorce made her feel like an unsuccessful person and took away all her confidence to make decisions.
After participating in the workshop, she decided to say no and demand her rights. She realized for the first time that she is a leader - she had raised her daughters on her own without their father; she earns an independent income as a teacher and is able to offer a good life for her children without help from others. Her family was surprised and amazed at the change in her and how she began to express herself with confidence. They asked her, "What did the workshop do for you? You are totally a different person."
~ Bahrain Women's Association grassroots leadership workshop, Manama, Bahrain, 2014
Leadership and empowerment are at the very core of the Women’s Learning Partnership’s work.
We believe in leadership that is participatory, horizontal, and dialogue-based. Our participatory leadership concept promotes sharing power and respect, which creates a group synergy that both empowers the individual and mobilizes collective action towards democratization. The concept forms the basis for all WLP publications, trainings, advocacy and relationships.
WLP aims to empower women to take on leadership roles in their families, communities and societies in order to realize their own visions of a better future. We strive both for a quantitative change in the number of women in formal leadership roles, and a qualitative change in the type of leadership women exercise. Not only women, but all of society, will gain politically, economically, and culturally by leveling the power imbalance between men and women.
Working in cooperation with grassroots partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, WLP has developed culture-specific leadership training curriculum, including Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women and Leading To Choices: A Multimedia Curriculum for Leadership Learning.
The curriculum uses interactive exercises and real-life case studies to convey the concept of participatory leadership and to enable training participants to develop personal leadership skills, such as communicating effectively, appreciating diversity, building consensus, creating a group vision, and developing an action plan. The Leading to Choices manual is available in over 18 culture-specific editions, each of which has been adapted by an indigenous women’s organization to ensure both linguistic and cultural suitability for the intended audience.
Leadership Training and Outcome
The innovative curriculum is used by WLP and our partners to conduct leadership trainings in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East through interactive Leading to Choices leadership workshops, Regional Learning Institutes for Women’s Leadership and Training of Trainers, and eCourses (online distance learning courses). Training participants include women activists, academics, domestic workers, factory workers, NGO leaders, politicians, refugees, students, indigenous women, and women with disabilities.
WLP's leadership training participants consistently report a sustained shift in their view of leadership from hierarchical and power-oriented models to democratic models based on consensus-building, participation and cooperation. Following the trainings, participants also establish more equal relations in the family and participate in civil society and political activities at higher levels than non-participants. In many cases, workshop participants have mobilized collectively to address shared challenges; participants have also gone on to accept formal leadership roles at the local, national, and international levels.