On March 8th/9th, female next generation leaders from several cohorts of FES' Young Leaders Forum gathered for the third and final part of our women empowerment workshop series, facilitated by international and Afghan trainers of The Philia Project.
Since August 2018, workshop participants have gained experience, shared views and learned new ways of exploring path towards a “Powerful You”, “Powerful Peers” and now – “Powerful Community”. Through these trainings, Afghan women should be empowered to realize the importance of their roles in society, build on their leadership skills, learn tools and techniques needed for personal, interpersonal and societal growth.
In these crucial times for Afghanistan, women leaders and their talents are in high demand addressing communal, political and economical challenges. Without them, any attempt to work towards an inclusive peace and stability will certainly be a non-starter. In turn, the current situation of protracted conflict, societal fragmentation, economic uncertainty and environmental hazards creates a difficult situation for Afghan women and girls, individually and as a whole. To come up with a comprehensive strategy for women empowerment, Philia developed distinctive workshop modules for female members of the YLF network: On the personal level, they learned to define goals and reach it consistently as well as live their best power potential. As “powerful peers” in the second workshop, methods were explored to create space for each other, to affirm and to support each other and to build very deep trust within each other.
The true success of any seminar lies in the “after” and “beyond” of it. Between the workshop sessions, participants started setting both short- and long-term goals for themselves, enriching their self-confidence to achieve high level goals in life. What they learned in the sessions, they shared it with other women – and men – in their own networks. They built more trust and practiced purposeful support to each other. Some could even see a transformational change within themselves. As a result of the workshop series, many participants have formulated clear goals, which they strive to work on every day and their self-confidence has grown, as they by now realize that they have the potential for positive change within themselves. In their environment at home and at the workplace, they are now practicing transformative trust building and adhere to a culture of support.
How can Afghan women leaders build on their individual strengths and social experiences when they decide to take action to uplift their communities and help developing them?
In the last phase of the women empowerment workshop, participants learned to co-create impactful change initiatives, to support their immediate communities and to understand and reflect on community needs. How to develop, communicate and maintain a clear vision? How to understand communities – offline and online? How to exercise power and leadership – especially amid the challenge of rivalries and competitors? How to show and create solidarity and impact?
Participants discussed and learned about self-accountability, personal and professional legacy as well as abundance and scarcity mindsets. They practiced different forms of leadership from the personal level up to community level and tested their skills and knowledge about conflict resolution and negotiation in a mock mediation process modelled on the current negotiations: This time between Afghan women community leaders and the Taliban group.
A key takeaway for most participants: It is not easy to encounter opposite radical ideologies regarding women if you haven’t understood the importance of your societal engagement and your own transforming impact as half of society. Now, it is time to build solidarity and power through collaboration!
On March 13th, we convened both male and female next generation leaders and members of our YLF network to discuss how to create meaningful alliances between the genders for women empowerment. Some tough questions were brought to the table: How shall women let men in without losing themselves? Can we each do it alone or are we better together? How can men help women in the fight for equality – so that everyone would win? Participants agreed on a set of recommendations that will shape also our future YLF work, keeping in mind that the Afghan context needs to be taken into consideration as well if meaningful change should be achieved. Women empowerment should emphasize the build-up of self-confidence and solidarity, individually and among women, in the cities and in the provinces. Afghan women and their allies should raise awareness for the need and long-term commitments for gender equality – and make the case to both other women and men that it creates win-win-situations for them and the society as a whole.
In the past two years, all participants in the workshop series and their peers joined forces to develop a YLF women empowerment vision which is that equality for women is a key part of the implementation of social justice in Afghan society. Every day they put a step forward individually and together and bring change to their communities and the society, even if it might appear as the very beginning of a lifelong journey.