‘She-roes’: African Women working Together for Change

Over twenty African women participated in an action-oriented initiative seeking to enhance their leadership to bring transformative change focusing on peace, security and development in the continent, in line with Africa Agenda 2063. 

The Centre for International Development and Training has successfully delivered a ‘Women in Leadership’ training workshop for 22 mid- to- senior level female staff from across the African Union Commission. The training took place from 23-31 March in Arusha, Tanzania. It was co-facilitated by CIDT’s gender experts Mary Surridge, and Rufsana Begum. This is the third women in leadership training since March 2018 and the suite of training has led to significant impact and lasting change; by multiplying the voices of African women leaders and enhancing their participation and leadership capacity in key decision-making processes. 

Women leaders face structural and cultural barriers, reflected in the AUC staffing ratio of 65% men and 35% women, with the gender ratio becoming increasingly unequal as seniority increases. The workshop was designed to identify the unique challenges women face in leadership positions and to create enabling conditions to address them. Through peer learning, experience sharing and cross-generational dialogues, the workshop hoped to:

  • Lay the foundation to grow a cadre of strong women leaders within the organisation; and
  • Identify and nurture those with highest potential.

Participants engaged in numerous practical activities, simulations and role plays, participant presentations, TED talk simulations, reflective journal writing and more. 

Some of the elements covered in the workshop include:

  • Communication Skills
  • Body language for power and influence
  • Self-esteem 
  • Negotiation
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Assertiveness

By catalysing and harnessing the power of women leaders, the AUC can realise the true potential of some of its best people. 

3C’s – Communication, Connections and Community….

By the end of the workshop: women had strengthened their capacity in communication, developed strong connectionsand built a communityof strong female leaders. Two emerging concepts (currently under discussion) are: 

  • “She-roes” a social media/WhatsApp platform for the participants to share experiences and lessons; 
  • ‘She-Speaks’ a development initiative that aims to harness videos produced by African Women at the AU on a website. This aims to counterbalance dominant narratives and western style/experience-based leadership videos. It will show case the challenges African Women face, their lessons and their stories to better reflect diversity and promote more inclusivity leadership videos.

We hope that She-Roes and She-Speaks will provide a platform to share inspirational stories from African women for African Women. 

Some of the feedback from the participants included: 

  • Very engaging and informative
  • Connection with other strong ladies
  • Very practical sessions 
  • The Ted Talk has built my skills for speaking in public
  • Stand on both feet to respect women’s leadership and self confidence

Some of the most notable elements participants gained from the workshop were:

  • Negotiating skills and promoting myself
  • To be assertive visible, to have a strategic goal
  • Emotional intelligence and speaking up in meetings
  • Dealing with difficult colleagues and bosses
  • Have self-worth 
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