The Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership concluded its inaugural Advancing Transformational Leadership for Gender Justice in the Caribbean, Young Women’s Training Institute, in Christ Church, Barbados to a resounding success. The part-online, part-residential programme brought together 19 participants from Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, who shared a passion for leading a transformative social agenda both regionally and within their respective countries.
The programme enabled the group to strengthen their personal and professional capacities, while networking and sharing ideas to contribute to a regional agenda for gender justice, across various social platforms.
Under the leadership of esteemed women from various professions, including Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice, the participants were guided through an intensive 3 week programme that shared theory and strategies in advancing women’s representation, influence and impact in various forms of leadership. The facilitation team included internationally-renowned professors associated with the University of the West Indies and York University (Toronto, Canada), and technicians from UN Women and UNDP: Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Dr. Kamala Kempadoo, Dr. Tonya Haynes, Gabrielle Henderson (UN Women) and Marsha Caddle (UNDP).
This training institute was the first for CIWIL targeted at young women (21-30) engaged in work advancing an agenda for gender justice throughout the Caribbean. The programme sought to promote and increase the participation of young women in the Caribbean in various forms of leadership and decision-making through their socio-political advocacy work. The group comprised of young leaders from various government divisions, civil society organisations, academia, grassroots organisations and media groups. The participants connected initially through the CIWIL Website to explore issues related to the status of women in their countries, and initiated a process of reflecting on their personal leadership styles, skills and interests. The initiative enabled the group to launch initiatives aimed at underscoring and addressing critical issues to socio-economic development, including women in democratic governance, the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls, women’s empowerment, violence against women and strengthening women’s economic security and rights.
The CIWIL Young Women’s Training Institute tackled three broad aims;
(i) overcoming structural barriers;
(ii) encouraging and supporting women to take up leadership roles or participate in decision-making on an equal footing with men;
(iii) supporting women to carry out leadership roles which challenge gender inequalities, engage in feminist activism and promote women’s rights. The project seeks to strengthen capacities of young women in leadership, and promote gender equality and support for women’s equitable participation in leadership and decision-making.
REFLECTIONS BY THE PARTICIPANTS
I started a non-profit organization—the Tobago Society of Young Professionals because I wanted young adults in Tobago to have a voice. I knew where I wanted it to go but did not possess the tools to get it
there. I needed help and was desperately looking. I found CIWiL and it was exactly what I was looking for. Being accepted into the programme was life changing for me. I did not know what to expect, especially from the online session, but it challenged me. It made me push myself and really commit to making my contributions and completi
ng assignments on time. Given my work schedule it was difficult finding the time but made the time because I knew the sacrifice would be worth it.
Reading the contributions from each participant across the region and sharing with them was extraordinary. Even though we came from different backgrounds, we all had the same aspirations to see change occur in our own countries. The topics were very timely and the discussions online were stimulating. We agreed to disagree and shared our knowledge, experiences and lives with each other. We had well and able co-coordinators, Asha and Tamara who are just the best and loads of fun. More importantly they gave support, facilitated discourse and were truly honest, objective and professional. My big sisters!
Culminating with the residential component brought everything that was done online into perspective and built upon the foundation that started two weeks prior. The Young Women’s Training Institute was very transformational. It has given me new strengths and new vigour that I needed to go forward and forge forth in all the areas I wanted to be involved in. I am now motivated and determined to set in motion the non-profit organisation I started in Tobago with the tools I have acquired.
While we were having discourse in the session on “Caribbean Political Economy” with Mrs. Cynthia Barrow-Giles, I experienced an epiphany. The topic examined leadership of women in the political arena, representation and the perpetuated thinking of some women believing that men are more suited for those positions. Often women who get into leadership roles lose their identity which results in them conforming to the norm to please others. My journey to epiphany begun as we made our introductions and talked about the initiatives we are involved in for each session, realizing that what I was saying the organization is about did not match what I had written down on paper. It ended when I shared with Mrs. Barrow-Giles during break my thoughts on how the training it helping me put into perspective what I want to achieve through my non-profit organization and fully grasping the vision. She was happy that I was able to come to that realization and recommended that I get support from a mentor. Overall the session helped me to return to the real reason the organization was started which I had lost in trying to please others. The sharing from each person and the interaction really encouraged me to be true to myself. I learned that being different meant you would stand out and there is nothing wrong with that, especially as a woman.
I am excited also about all the initiatives I am going to be involved in as a result of participating in this training programme. The materials from the sessions were interactive, thought-provoking and informative. It stimulated thoughts and challenged all our mindsets. The residential component really brought us closer together and further contributed to the building of lasting friendships. I was able to interact with a group of beautiful, fun and phenomenal young women that are all leaders in their own rights. I have been touched and inspired by all. We worked together to support each other in advancing women’s leadership in the Caribbean and as we return to our individual countries the network that has already been established will continue from henceforth. I and deeply appreciative for being part of this inaugural training and for the experiences I gained over the three weeks. I feel empowered and liberated coming out the training…thank you CIWiL!
Kennethia Douglas – Trinidad and Tobago