WLP Bahrain/BWA Holds Leadership Training for Saudi Arabian Businesswomen Ahead of 2015 Elections

From April 13-15, 2014, WLP Bahrain/Bahrain Women’s Society (BWA) convened a women’s leadership workshop in the Businesswomen’s Center of the Asharqia Chamber (a private enterprise association) in Al Khubar, Saudi Arabia. The training was based on Women’s Learning Partnership’s (WLP) flagship training manual Leading to Choices (LTC), and was attended by 16 highly qualified businesswomen and microfinance entrepreneurs from different parts of Saudi Arabia. The training took place in the context of preparing for Saudi Arabia’s 2015 municipal elections in which women will for the first time be allowed to participate as voters and as candidates. At the conclusion of the workshop several participants expressed interest in becoming more politically active and running in campaigns.

One participant, Mona al-Baood, had recently finished her campaign as one of two women running for a seat on the Asharqia Chamber’s 17th Board of Directors. Though she did not win a seat (the women of Asharqia Chamber are currently lobbying for a women’s quota for Board members), al-Baood expressed that she gained invaluable experience and insight into the nature of campaigning and elections, which she shared with the other workshop participants and related directly to the LTC course material. Her story was particularly inspiring to the participants, who were receptive to the message that winning the election is not always the only goal of a campaign, as campaigning can be a powerful way to spread certain messages and start dialogues within a society.

Prior to their participation in the training all of the participants reported feeling excluded from the Chamber’s meetings and decision making processes, despite their status as business owners. After the workshop’s conclusion the women reported feeling empowered to demand a greater say in the direction and actions of the Chamber, and they immediately planned additional meetings amongst themselves to strategize for negotiations with the Chamber’s leadership. They also planned a dinner meeting for all 2013 and 2014 Saudi Arabian training participants for the purpose of sharing how BWA’s workshops positively affected their home and professional lives.

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