WLP Convenes Transnational Partners Meeting in Beirut

March 6, 2006

Teaching Reproductive HealthThe Women's Learning Partnership's (WLP) Transnational Partners Meeting convened in Beirut, Lebanon from September 24-28, 2004. Partners from 12 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East gathered for an intensive five-day brainstorming and strategy meeting on 1) expanding the programs of the WLP Partnership for empowering women and girls through culturally relevant approaches to leadership development and capacity-building and 2) strengthening and expanding linkages within the Partnership. The meeting was hosted by WLP's Lebanese partner, Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD-A). During the meeting, partners exchanged best practices on enhancing women's leadership capacity at the grassroots, planned new programs and curricula for future development, and strategized on ways to strengthen the Partnership.

Egyptian and Nigerian Partners TalkExpanding Programs
Working in small groups, partners shared with one another specific achievements and challenges they faced in implementing the WLP leadership program in their countries. The South-South exchange of experiences among partners was informative and instructive. Partners agreed on the transformative power of the participatory and dialogical leadership concept and methodology and felt that the flexibility and adaptability inherent in the program is its greatest strength. Partners found that the program is effective in transforming workshop participants' perceptions of leadership as authoritarian, to an understanding of leadership as participatory, egalitarian, and respectful of others. Partners cited numerous instances of workshop participants undergoing life-changing experiences after completing the workshops. Initially in the training, many of the participants did not see themselves as leaders, but by the end they began to see how they could take on leadership roles in all aspects of their lives. The workshops provided a safe, supportive, and communicative environment for women to share their experiences. After completing the workshops, many participants requested additional ones and some went on to become workshop facilitators.Workshop participants have developed and implemented projects in their communities to address issues such as women's economic empowerment, adult literacy, women's reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, advocating for family laws that better protect women's rights, and increasing the number of women candidates in local and national elections.

Given the success of the leadership program, partners discussed next steps to expand the WLP curriculum. Priority areas identified by partners were violence against women and women's reproductive health, and women's political and economic empowerment. The development of new learning tools focusing on these issues will be based on WLP's leadership and advocacy concepts and practices that promote horizontal power relations, effective communication, and consensus building.

Strengthening Partner Linkages
Moroccan PartnersThe meeting was also an opportunity for WLP partners to fortify personal and organizational relationships that help build a stronger support structure and transnational network of dynamic women activists. Partners reiterated their belief in the transformative power of a strong transnational network that works within a human rights framework and cooperatively devises culture-specific concepts and methods to equip women with the information, knowledge, and training to transform their roles and realize their decision-making capacity. The network provides an important resource for women at the grassroots by drawing together the experiences and expertise of individuals and organizations involved in various aspects and stages of civil society activism across the world. The network also helps strengthen the foundations of the global women's movement that is emerging from the Global South and is rooted in the realities, challenges, and possibilities women face as they strive to shape the lives of their families, communities, and societies.

Lebanese and Palestinian Partners Evaluation of the Meeting
WLP partners found the meeting to be a successful forum for networking, learning from one other's experiences, and strengthening their role in the larger women's movement. One partner described the convening as "a window to the world." Another participant said, "being part of this network allows my organization access to valuable resources like experiences, expertise, and skills through the exchange of information." WLP's partner from Cameroon stated, "Our participation in the Transnational Partnership Convening has given us an opportunity to learn from other partners what they are able to achieve in their countries. This is the sort of empowerment we need in our organization in Cameroon in order to move from the grassroots to the national level on issues affecting women. Working with other groups energizes us to continue toward success in our work." On the last day of the meeting, each participant presented a one-word summation of the meeting. Among them: "friendship," "participatory," "fruitful," "united," "energizing," "rich," "solidarity," "sisterhood," "educating," "inspiring," "learning," "enriching," and "exchanging."

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