CIDT has delivered a first ‘Women in Leadership’ training workshop for the African Union (AU), comprising 22 senior female staff from across the African Union Commission and including two from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the AU Advisory Board on Anti-Corruption (AUABC). The training took place from March 19-23 in Arusha, Tanzania.
The AU is concerned about the representation of women in the African Union Commission (AUC). It is well recognized that the Commission must reflect the continent’s diversity, in terms of gender and, of course, geography. Despite Article 6(3) of the commission’s statutes stating that “[a]t least one Commissioner from each region shall be a woman,” women currently make up only a very small proportion of all those contesting positions as commissioners. Moreover there are other internal structural and cultural barriers to women’s leadership that are still pervasive. Overall the staffing in the AU is 65% men and 35% women.
The ‘Women in Leadership’ workshop was designed to address the unique challenges women face in leadership positions and to create enabling conditions to address them. It recognises the role of the social construct of gender roles in influencing perceptions, creating stereotypes and limiting opportunities for learning and growth into leadership. By catalysing and harnessing the power of women leaders, the AUC can realise the true potential of some of its best people. The ultimate goals of this workshop were, therefore, to:
- lay the foundation to grow a cadre of strong leaders within the organisation; and
- identify and start nurturing those with highest potential.
Over the five day programme participants were exposed to new knowledge as well as having the chance to practice some leadership skills. In particular participants had the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership styles, needs and opportunities. To achieve the unique blend of enquiry and practice the facilitators used participatory approaches to foster meaningful reflection and adult learning, drawing on and valuing participants’ experiences. In working through the programme, real-life examples were used as well as a wide variety of methodologies such as group work, role plays, participant presentations, informal coaching, reflection and personal journal writing and more.
Participants considered different leadership and management styles and qualities, shared their personal views and experiences on a range of topics and reappraised their own skills in the light of their learning. The range of skills discussed and practiced were:
- Communication: Listening
- Communication: Public Speaking
- Communication: Body language for power and influence
The workshop was co-facilitated by CIDT’s Deputy Head of Centre, Rachel Roland, and Senior Lecturer, Kimberly Kane. The sessions were highly interactive, practical and tailored to the context of the AU.
During the week an excellent bond built up between participants, many of whom exercised for up to an hour before breakfast each day. Towards the end, a number of hashtags were proposed to help take forward the ambitious programme of work on women’s leadership that is planned in the AU.
Some feedback from participants included:
- “Very practical to the context of women in general and at AU.”
- “There were many group exercises and simulations that made content easy to understand.”
- “Allowed me to reflect on my current situation.”
- “The workshop was really informative, educative, practical. The facilitators are really current.”
- “More time [should] be allocated as the content of the workshop is important.”
- “The workshop was a very practical one and I am eager to go back and put them in practice.”
- “I have previously attended a number of trainings on leadership, but none has ever spoken so directly to me as CIDT Women in Leadership. Now I can lead.”