Leadership Workshops in Morocco and Nigeria Create Hope for Social Change

Moroccan Workshop ParticipantsApproximately 65 women, and some men participated in two leadership training workshops conducted by WLP's Moroccan partner, L'Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM) in Taza and Ouarzazat between April and July 2004. The workshops were conducted using both the French and Maghreby-Arabic editions of the Leading to Choices leadership training manual.

In the remote northeastern town of Taza, twenty-five women and five men, participated in the training workshop, the majority of whom were representatives of organizations involved with economic development, social services, education, poverty eradication, women's rights advocacy, and improving women's health. Participants were eager to discuss reforms in the personal status code (Moudawana) in Morocco, as well as recent mobilization efforts for earthquake victims in the nearby town of Al-Hoceima. Participants found group exercises and sessions particularly empowering and began developing projects they wanted to implement after completing the workshop. One group plans to create a crisis center in Taza to educate the community about violence against women and to serve as a shelter for victims of violence. Inspired by the Leading to Choices session on developing a personal vision, participants developed plans for an education program for girls in rural areas, a rehabilitation program for sexually exploited street children, and an income-generating bakery for poor rural women. Other participants plan to incorporate the participatory leadership methodologies into the functioning of their organizations and aim to continue working together to create a regional network of development and rights organizations.

Moroccan ParticipantsThirty-five men and women took part in the second workshop in Ouarzaza, a town nestled in the middle of the Atlas Mountains in central Morocco. Participants were primarily representatives of organizations involved in development, education, reproductive health, and women's rights. With nine men in the workshop, a dynamic learning environment was created in which men and women worked cooperatively through the lessons on particpatory leadership and communication. Using the Leading to Choices curriculum, participants worked collaboratively to develop projects that would benefit their communities, including an organizational network to strengthen the work of NGOs in the region and establishing a center that would coordinate efforts to eliminate violence against women.

In Nigeria, WLP's partner, BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights (BAOBAB), recently conducted three leadership training workshops with more that 60 women using both the English and Hausa editions of Leading to Choices during spring 2005.

In response to the recent resurgence in violence between Muslim and Christian groups in the country, a workshop was organized with twenty-five grassroots Muslim and Christian women in the northern city of Zaria. The workshop served as a forum for conflict resolution and consensus building among diverse communities. Participants engaged in exercises on developing effective negotiation and communication skills while discussing ways to respect human diversity, embrace differences of opinion, and build trust between Muslim and Christian communities. As the workshop progressed participants became more comfortable working together on collaborative activities. One woman commented, "These discussions and exercises are important for us. We are learning to work together and that is good for us and for everyone in Nigeria." "We came here empty and we are leaving full," stated another participant.

Nigerian FacilitatorThe second workshop was conducted at the Obafemi Awolowo University, where BAOBAB is conducting a series of workshops. The twenty participants included 5 senior staff members and 15 professors. Obafemi University, as with many academic institutions in Nigeria, has been deeply divided by rivalry among different campus groups of staff, professors, and administrators. The workshop was designed to train participants to communicate effectively, cooperate in the midst of diversity, develop shared meaning, and work together to achieve common goals. As the workshop progressed participants began to relate to one another as women with a shared purpose, rather than as adversaries. By the end of the workshop participants had come to understand a collegial approach to leadership as opposed to the hierarchical system they were accustomed to at the University. "I believe there is no mountain too high for us to climb- together we can change anything," said one participant.

Nigerian ParticipantsFifteen undergraduate students of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds took part in the third workshop in Lagos. Using the Leading to Choices curriculum, participants worked on developing horizontal and inclusive leadership styles, fostering effective communication skills, and finding ways to empower themselves and others. The open dialogue and respect for diversity of opinions in the learning environment enabled participants to identify commonalities among them. "This workshop helped me to unlearn what I have been taught to believe about women being the inferior sex and their inabilities to be leaders. I now believe in myself and in all women. I will never underestimate women and what they can contribute as leaders to make Nigeria a better place for all," stated a participant at the conclusion of the workshop.

S:SSO to Sakai