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Women’s Leadership Schools Help Close the Gender Gap on Political Participation
Washington, DC – Launched in 2011, the Women’s Leadership Schools (WLS) have provided women around the world with the skills to engage in the civic life and pursue leadership roles in their communities and countries. With funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund, the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) has reached more than 1,000 women through WLS and is helping to close the gender gap on women’s political participation.
Headed by WDN country chapters in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Georgia and Guatemala, WLS has offered workshops in such topics as building influence, conflict management and strategic planning. WDN members from the four country chapters then went on to train fellow WDN members in Argentina, Bolivia, Burma, El Salvador, Jordan, Moldova and Zimbabwe. Women who attended the schools have gone on to run for office, take on leadership roles in political parties, serve as election observers, join civil society organizations, run a business, represent their community in public hearings and contribute to their communities.
As a result of the success of WLS, each of the WDN chapters that led the effort received follow-on funding to conduct additional activities from organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the United Nations Development Program and the San Carlos University in Guatemala. The funding will allow the WDN country chapters to provide skills to women who aspire to run for office and serve as effective legislators. For example, the WDN Georgia country chapter was invited to partner with the Municipal Service Provider’s Association, a local nongovernmental organization, to train women local councilors from all nine regions of the country on democratic governance using the WLS curriculum.
WLS was designed around a unique leadership development curriculum, which was developed by Rachel Woods, a member of the WDN Council and chief executive officer of Leadership TREK® Corporation. The curriculum covered a variety of concepts on how to develop effective leadership skills, as well as activities to ensure participants gain practical skills to implement what they have learned. Another feature of the curriculum included the presentation of information in a “train-the-trainers” format which allowed participants the opportunity to share their new-found knowledge. In addition to utilizing the curriculum, the chapters also invited community leaders to each WLS to share best practices and highlight avenues for students to increase their participation in public life.
WLS continues to transcend borders and expand each year, serving as a catalyst to inspire the next generation of women leaders.