Annual Transnational Partners Convening in Virginia, September 2011: Arab Spring, Peer-to-Peer Program, Learning Portal & Upcoming VAW Manual, Summits

September 16, 2011

On September 16, 2011, WLP partners and board members from all over the world convened for our annual Transnational Partners Convening.  Thirty-one participants flew in from Bahrain, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, and Zimbabwe. Nearly all of our partners sent more than one representative, including senior program staff, to ensure wide-ranging conversations with varied perspectives, as well as to create opportunities for capacity building. 

The four-day program provided participants the opportunity to share respective country developments and current challenges and opportunities for women’s rights, as well as experiences using WLP curriculum and materials, outcomes of partner peer-to-peer strategic planning sessions, and organizational updates and innovations. Partner representatives discussed how to build the capacities of their respective organizations and also those of the Partnership itself. Attendees participated in financial capacity building sessions, explored ways to expand organizational outreach, deliberated over WLP’s strategic priorities, and reflected on democratic transitions in the world with a particular focus on the Arab Spring. In addition, WLP introduced its new Global Training of Trainers (GTOT) initiative. The TPC culminated with an event on “Women and Democratic Transition in the Middle East” at the Woodrow Wilson center, where WLP partners and board members discussed what the Arab Spring means for women’s rights and how to achieve viable democracies.

Peer-to-Peer Program Highlights

Among the program highlights, WLP partners shared peer-to-peer strategic planning outcomes and their own innovations, which adapt WLP methodology. Peer-to-peer strategic planning sessions function as a two-way mentoring programing for WLP partners. These sessions allow partners to share experiences, common concerns, and strategies, which not only strengthen their capacity, but also that of their constituents and the Partnership itself. 

WLP’s draft strategic planning tool kit, which was written with and tested by partners, lays out exercises and guidelines on how to conduct the exchange.  WLP Morocco/ Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc, for example, worked closely with WLP Lebanon/ Collective for Research & Training on Development-Action to develop a strategic plan for the “Equality in Inheritance Rights” advocacy campaign.

With the support of the peer exchange program,other partner organizations have adopted the WLP strategic planning model for their own initiatives. WLP Turkey/Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW), which consists of 70 economic cooperatives with childcare centers, tasked 50 of them with implementing individual strategic plans that encourage reflection, sustainability, and organization-wide planning.  FSWW hopes that through strategic planning implementation, the cooperatives will ultimately be able to reach more women and children, increase access to local and national resources, and influence public policies related to women and poverty.

New Initiatives Discussed

Also, WLP discussed new Partnership initiatives, including a prototype manual on violence against women and an online learning portal.

WLP has completed the first draft of “Victories over Violence: The Practitioner’s Manual to Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls,” which will build the capacity of activists and practitioners to combat gender-based violence and work within existing legal and social frameworks. Based on our partners’ experience and expertise, the manual incorporates a wide rangeof strategies to combat various forms of violence such as home and workplace violence and violence in conflict areas.

In addition, WLP unveiled its new online learning portal, which will connect partners and their constituents, and open our network to new groups of grassroots women’s and youth activists. This portal will create a space where all partnership members can connect with one another, share resources, hold video conferences, access e-courses, chat online, exchange materials, and locate all WLP manuals and materials.

Arab Spring, Shared Strategies and Challenges

WLP partners also identified the bleak economy and international funding climate as common challenges.  Participants discussed how best to navigate this environment, as well as strategies for fundraising, financial planning, reporting, and documentation.

Another highlight was a robust discussion about strategies to advance women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa in the present context of the Arab Spring. WLP partners pointed out that women had been at the forefront of the movements across the region, where every country has been affected in one way or another.  Even in countries with no popular uprisings, the Arab Spring reinvigorated many initiatives. Several themes emerged throughout the discussion, including advancing women’s rights during periods of transition, constitutional reform, women’s political participation, and labor law reform.

By the event’s closing, several key pieces were identified as key to advancing women’s rights during this critical moment. WLP and other women’s rights groups must be organized and ready to seize opportunities where they can contribute to public policies, as illustrated by the transitional governments that have thus far resulted from the Arab Spring movements. Further, citizenship rights and other human rights must be central to discussions during democratic transitions, which must be rooted in constitutional reform. WLP resolved to move this agenda forward by increasing its outreach, further building the technology capacity of our partners and constituents, and continuing to advance women’s rights as basic human rights.

Looking Forward: Upcoming Summits

The Convening provided an opportunity for substantive discourse on the Partnership’s work and our goal of advancing women’s rights worldwide.  The coming year will see many opportunities to further this dialogue at summits across the globe, including the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Association for Women in Development (AWID) forum, and the World Movement for Democracyglobal assembly, where the International Women’s Democracy Movement will convene. WLP plans to represent the Partnership at these meetings and share these conversations with other activists, NGOs, and governments.

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