Business skills training for women – reflections on another workshop

We held the Introductory Business Skills for Women’s Groups workshop yesterday! We had 17 women from four women’s groups in two villages. It was great to see this level of turn out, and I really enjoyed working with the women – it felt very meaningful, particularly as most women here mainly stay in their households, do not have formal employment and are generally quite marginalized. This really seems to result in a lack of confidence, illustrated by the difficulty a few of them had just to introduce themselves without giggling in embarassment. I hope that the workshop was a small step towards giving them more confidence and a stronger voice.
The women’s workshop had several aims: give the women some business skills, inform them about the development of socio-economic monitoring, get a little bit of input from them on what their concerns are, and practice facilitating story-gathering (because story-gathering may be one of our monitoring approaches).

A few quick reflections…

  • When we asked the women what things were ‘important for a good life’ we got a few noticeably different answers than when we asked the community leaders (a group that had only three women and eight men). The women mentioned the availability of game meat, having clothing, and having shelter. They also remembered to say land – something that surely must have been important to the community leaders but they didn’t bring it up until prompted.

What is important for a good life?

Women’s list:

1. Healthy lifestyle
2.Having enough food
3.Having good, healthy food
4. Shelter – having a house
5.Having land
6.Having money
9.Job – employment
10.Farming – self-employment
11.Availability of game meat – through conservation and
sustainable use

Community leaders’ list:

1.To work in unity
2. Money
3.Hard work – working hard (by yourself and together)
5.Shelter (a home)
7.Water – clean water
8.Planning ahead
10.Health and healthcare
11.Rich, healthy environment
12.Justice – social justice
  • It is hard to know how things are going in a workshop when you don’t speak the local language! In hindsight I would have scheduled a small meeting with all the facilitators (the three Community, Outreach and Livelihood staff and the volunteer who assisted) immediately following the workshop for them to debrief me and reflect on what we had learned. I might also ask for a translator for myself – someone who is not actively facilitating but can give me the highlights of the questions being asked from the participants without interrupting the flow of the meeting (some facilitators call these ‘whisperers’.)
  • Another thing I will do differently next time is an evaluation form to find out what the women learned and what they thought of the workshop. I think they liked it because they were attentive and seemed to enjoy creating the stories of how their groups were formed and sharing them back with the whole group – but that is only my perception (though my colleague here who does speak the local language had the same feeling).
  • It was good to combine the business training with an introdcution to our plans for socio-economic monitoring, but by the time we got to talking about monitoring I don’t think the women had much energy left. This goes back to the bigger question of whether the monitoring framework is meant to be fully participatory or not. This was mainly a chance to inform the women about monitoring and get initial ideas of what is important to them in their livelihoods, but if this organisation wants to develop a fully participatory monitoring system it requires a more comprehensive approach to community involvement.

When the women described how their groups were formed and what their goals were, a pattern emerged that they had all faced the challenge of losing group members because of misunderstandings about their goals. Barts and I both reflected back to them the importance of having clear goals, good communication and a strong group structure to overcome this. This pattern is also relevant to developing a socio-economic monitoring system – it is extremely important for everyone involved to know and agree on why they are monitoring! I do feel that I am trying to live up to different sets of expectations for this project right now.

In particular if the system is going to be ‘participatory’, you need to define what you mean by ‘participatory’ and why you want to be participatory. Based on many conversations with M&E specialists before coming out here, I was thinking that we could roughly define the reason for monitoring as either principally for internal learning, or principally for external accountability – but another motivation is stakeholder (community) learning. If this is the reason for monitoring it demands a different – and longer term – strategy for engagement…one that is much more participatory. Again I am reminded the importance of clarity of purpose!




One Reply to “Business skills training for women – reflections on another workshop”

  1. In the late ’80s HP developed a leadership course by interviewing 170 managers in 20 countries, all ranked “exceptional.” You are intuitively applying their techniques! Get clear on the goals, build small groups, have stories… You may add to your success by… leading the group to establish their values, planning together, then executing and measuring progress. And, very important: celebrating successes large and small! Keep up the good work. Please keep the blog going!

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