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Listening to each other
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06 June, 2014

 

Enabling change for leadership

Working collectively
Working collectively
'We were taught skills and tools to make a start to challenge the chains that bind. When at last women believe in themselves and are allowed to make their full contribution without fear of the glass ceiling, only then can they make a real difference, only then will the world be a better place'
Florencia Cayaban Kingscote, participant.

Sharing personal stories
Sharing personal stories
As part of Women’s History Month, a dynamic, experiential, leadership training programme took place at Initiatives of Change UK, from 25 March to 6 May, where sessions were held over six consecutive Tuesdays. Mainly based in London, 20 women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities participated, representing a rich ethnic mix of Somali, Eritrean, Pakistani, Afghani, Bengali, African Caribbean, Egyptian, Filipino and Ethiopian women.

A pilot initiative, the Women, Leadership and Sustainable Change (WLS) training course was innovatively created by the Sustainable Communities programme at IofC-UK, in response to Maqsood Ahmed OBE, Director of Community Development, Muslim Hands, who called for an initiative to build the capacities of BAME women in London.

Progressive thinking
Progressive thinking
A report published by independent race equality think tank Runnymede Trust in 2012, was at the forefront of the preparation for the WLS programme, which inquired into the issues of ethnic minority female unemployment and highlighted that 'discrimination is present at every level of the recruitment process'.

The main objective of the programme was to empower and encourage women to take steps in their own lives to enable them to build their capacity and to fulfil their potential. The programme employed a holistic approach where mindfulness practice training was incorporated each week. The mindfulness silence component of the course provided a powerful tool for participants, allowing them to learn how to put aside the stresses and pressures of their everyday lives, feel centred and discover their inner wisdom.

Listening to each other
Listening to each other
The programme facilitated a variety of workshops each week for both practical and emotional development which included: CV writing, presentation and networking skills workshops, voice coaching, drama and role-play, personal values assessment, personal development plans, sharing of personal stories and community projects, identifying inner resources for the service of the community and building confidence and self-esteem. The workshops were facilitated mainly by women from both corporate and community organisations, as well as those from BAME backgrounds.

A concern that arose time and again throughout the course was the issue of encountering racism, which for some participants is a daily occurrence. They are challenged in their children’s schools, in their own experience of education and in the sphere of employment: for being a woman, for the colour of their skin, for the religious clothing they may wear, to trying to speak out against injustices. As part of the group, participants had the opportunity to gain support and guidance in tackling such a deep-rooted issue, which had become a painful, emotional struggle in their lives.

Developing community initiatives
Developing community initiatives
As testament to the effectiveness of the course, on the final day, participants prepared short presentations on their experience of the programme. What followed was a group of diverse women from many walks of life who now had the confidence to speak before a room of people and talk about their dreams and achievements. One participant, Natasha Reid, movingly shared: 'I’ve actually started to dream again, as silly as that might sound. And I have thought: "I can actually have a dream and try to achieve it."'

Another participant, Donna Noel powerfully stated: 'This course has highlighted the importance of communities and progressive thinkers galvanising their skills to work collectively to make a change and that this is the only way real change can happen.'

Dr Lul Seyoum
Dr Lul Seyoum
What emerged from the presentations were attitudes of hope, community, motivation and inspiration, encapsulated by the words of another participant, Hyacinth Myers: 'I think the power of women when you’re together – as long as we’ve got good men standing by us as well - actually we can achieve anything'.

What was particularly remarkable about the WLS programme was how its coordinators - Dr Lul Seyoum, President, International Centre for Eritrean Refugee and Asylum Seekers; Dr Muna Ismail, Project Manager, Sustainable Communities Programme, IofC UK; Amina Khalid, Project Manager, Peace Begins At Home; and supported by Don de Silva, Head of Programme Administration & Communities, IofC-UK - had addressed the core values of transformational change without words, but with pure action. They had successfully fostered a space where 20 women were able to communicate with one another in a display of honesty and openness, unselfishness, encouragement, respect and love.

Written by Yasmine Kamel, participant.

Photos by Charlotte Sawyer and Jonty Herman


 

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