Afghan women are, like their country, at once resilient and diverse. A three-step approach developed by FES partner Philia can help them make the most of these strengths, boosting women’s personal progress as well as their contribution to security and prosperity across society. At a workshop in Kabul, 20 women activists exchanged experiences and explored the new approach to empower themselves and their communities.
Participants gathered in Kabul in August 2018 for a two-day workshop on women’s empowerment hosted by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). Attendees were mostly members of the FES Young Leaders Forum (YLF), including women’s rights activists, entrepreneurs, trade union members, photographers, mountaineers, as well as experts working in national institutions and international organizations.
They discussed their roles in promoting women in public and political life. They were then guided through the workshop by representatives of Philia, a global programme that strengthens women through unique peer-support techniques. The peer-coaching sessions and tailored exercises provided tools for the women to support each other and actively shape their community. “We need to give women the opportunity to work together, improve their knowledge and education”, YLF member Mariam said.
Afghanistan is a place of resilience and strength, more than is sometimes recognized. "We need to decolonize the way people think about power and women,” said workshop participant Sahar, a women’s rights activist. “Especially Afghan women and their issues and problems. […] A lot of our empowerment as Afghan women hasn’t been discussed because of the way we are seen. I hope I’ll be able to show the power of Afghan women as a film-maker and storyteller.”
The Philia approach is structured in three parts. The first is called “Powerful You” and highlights the importance of introspection, particularly in light of today’s constant distraction. All participants learned to express themselves, the way they feel and the mood they are in.
They were provided with tools to determine their goals and track their progress towards them. Furthermore, by identifying barriers and setting strong intentions, participants learned how to voice their opinions, and also how to understand others as well as their own reactions.
Building on the strong foundation of the first part, the second is called “Powerful Peers”, and is the core of the unique Philia Peer Support technique. This part highlights methods to navigate human interactions when shaping societies and voicing one's own stance.
The last part, “Powerful Community”, focuses on the self as a member of society, building further on the skills and insights the women acquired in the first two days.
Overall, the sustainability of the programme is grounded in a long-term approach that focuses on changing habits and attitudes, starting with the individual and aiming for community-level impact. True leadership is grounded in strong values and ethics as well as a supportive mindset. Only an in-depth approach to leadership can grow the next generation of leaders, and that is what FES and Philia aim for in their work on women’s empowerment in general and in the recent workshop in particular.
The Philia programme encourages women to work together towards reaching their personal goals, being active citizens and creating global networks. International facilitators Nicole Bogott and Tanja Schomann closely worked together with Afghan national expert Nargis Ehsan in delivering the programme in the most engaging way.
Beyond the workshop, participants were invited to join the Global Philia Association, a gathering of like-minded women that work together towards shaping their societies by sharing experiences and resources.
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