Changing Views on Leadership in Palestine, One Workshop at a Time

May 9, 2008

April 2007: In Palestine, the constant violence continues, often causing disruptions to the work of WLP Palestine/Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC). During their latest leadership workshop, WATC experienced interruptions because several workshop participants experienced regular delays at checkpoints. Nevertheless, they continued to hold the training workshop.

The leadership workshop took place in Ramallah for ten female and five male WATC volunteers in April 2007. During the training, participants divided into two groups and developed advocacy campaign action plans. One campaign focused on the problem of expensive dowries and the other on the increasing prevalence of honor killings. Each group presented their campaign strategies to the other group for feedback and discussion. Participants also discussed the changes they would like to make in their youth and women’s committees, and brainstormed ways in which they could be more helpful to the local community.

WATC conducted surveys before and after the workshop to gauge how participants’ views of leadership changed. For example, participants started using words like communication, sharing, and democracy to describe leadership after the training. Before the training, 12.5% of the participants strongly disagreed that they had leadership qualities, 12.5% disagreed, and 50% neither agreed nor disagreed. After the workshop, 78% agreed that they had leadership qualities, 22% strongly agreed, and 11% were neutral. One participant, Roula,* said, “I thought that leadership meant being in charge of a political party and appearing on TV. Now I think a leader is a normal person. Anyone can be a leader in something. A leader is a respectful, understanding person who talks with others to reach common goals.”

Sara* said, "Since primary school, I was a shy person. I couldn't speak or participate in a discussion. If I even thought about trying to talk my face would become red and my tongue would get stuck like a baby trying to talk. I really was afraid of comments like: ‘what you are talking about, stupid?’ But since this workshop, I have been able to talk and participate in discussions because I feel people really care about my opinion and want to hear it. After this workshop, I participated in a workshop with another nongovernmental organization. You wouldn't believe how much I talked and discussed. The funniest thing is that the leaders of the workshop kept talking with me during breaks. I really want to thank WATC and the facilitator. This was my biggest problem, and now I can barely remember how shy I used to be."

Another participant, Noor* shared, "At first it was so hard to be a part of a group, and I was worried because the facilitator didn’t give us the information directly. She wanted us to feel it and think about it and I wasn't used to that approach. But after a while I started feeling more safe and comfortable and I became a part of the group because of the trust the facilitator built between us. My personality has developed. I can feel how much progress I have made and I now have new skills. I have learned not to judge people and that it is not only my opinion that is right. I must listen to others and respect them. I felt better about myself. The main challenge I have now is to apply these skills in real life and integrate them into my personality. I now believe in equality between males and females, which I didn't really believe in before. When I have kids and become a mother, I will treat my daughters and sons equally!"

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