Tuesday, November 29, 2016

First Women's Voices Champions Meeting

Today Umande held the first of many meetings for the Women's Voices project champions. The 20 women champions met with some of the Umande staff at the Harlequins Suites Hotel. The meeting started by having all the women introduce themselves, followed by an introduction of Umande Trust, and some of the other projects that the organization is working on. After the introductions, each woman was given a questionnaire which asked questions about their local government, how involved the women have been in the local government in the past, and the positive and negative aspects of their local government. After reading the questionnaires it was clear that most of the women in the room felt like they did not have a voice in their community, or no one was listening. That is why this program, Women's Voices ICT Choices is so important for women in the community. This project teaches and encourages women to share their thoughts and ideas and gives them leadership roles within their own communities.

After a brief tea break, the meeting took a turn toward open discussion, in which the women shared and debated ways that they can engage with local leaders and ensure that these leaders are held accountable. One of the most prominent suggestions made was that the women go as a group to meet with the Members of the County Assembly to ensure that funds are being properly allocated throughout each of their wards.  However, it was also mentioned that there are numerous factors that limit women from participation, the most prominent being fear.  Many of the women expressed that there is a general fear women experience when approaching their leaders, which is why it is important that they empower and encourage each other, as long as other methods such as prayer, so that they can overcome this obstacle of fear.  In addition to discussing ideas as a whole. the women then divided into smaller groups based on the wards they each live in to further talk about how they can reach other women in their communities, then shared their ideas with the entire group afterward.  In addition to coming up with new ideas, the women's champions shared their feedback on what they had learned about the project as a whole, and were shown the online dashboard they will use to interact with each other and their communities.  Moving forward, the Women's Voices ICT Choices project will continue to hold monthly meetings with all of the women champions, hold focused group discussions, and discuss the involvement of Magnet Theater groups and the role religious institutions can play in the project.   The project seeks to make women the eyes of the community, and uniting them so that they have better chances of helping their communities.

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