WLP's Multi-Regional Meeting on Women's Leadership and Institutional Change
Balaghi, Shiva, The Middle East Women's Studies Review
On June 7, 2001 Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) convened a cross-regional, interdisciplinary meeting on women's leadership at the School for Advanced International Studies of John's Hopkins University in Washington, DC. The meetings were co-sponsored by the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University (NYU). Participants in the meeting represented diverse professional, cultural, and religious perspectives. Together, they closely examined WLP's model for re-imagining, fostering and supporting women's leadership and institutional change in the Global South. WLP's aim is not only to increase the numbers of women in leadership positions but to rethink the concept of leadership at a fundamental .level. "There are different types of leadership--formal, institutional, inspirational. Our model of leadership is charged with change," said Farhad Kazemi, Vice-Provost of NYU who facilitated the morning sessions.
A primary focus of the day-long meeting was to discuss WLP's new handbook entitled Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women that was produced in partnership with L'Association Democratique des femmes du Maroc (ADFM) in Morocco, BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights in Nigeria, and Women's Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) in Palestine. The WLP project serves as a useful example for other women's organizations seeking to bridge global and local activism. Using information technology to its full potential, the collaborating organizations hashed out problems and solutions through emails, letters, and telephone calls; drafts of the manual were faxed and emailed back and forth. The resulting handbook presents cases of positive and constructive leadership from around the world and serves as a vehicle for education, organization, and collaboration. Meant to be used in workshops, the handbook is adaptable to various contexts and is designed to create learning partnerships by encouraging communication, listening, mentoring, and consensus-building. Haleh Vaziri, a contributor to the handbook explained, "The case studies in Leading to Choices ask each participant to look within themselves, to recognize their own talents, to examine their world, discover solutions to the problems around them, and to defy the notion that change is not possible."
The day culminated in a public conference that was attended by some 200 activists and scholars. Introducing the session, Mahnaz Afkhami (President, Women's Learning Partnership) explained, "We would like to go beyond the matter of equity in numbers and examine the kinds of leadership structures that have lead to the challenges we face today. …