The Institute for Social Transformation recently hosted the Language, Gender and Leadership Network meeting in Kampala. The aim was to enhance economic development and the welfare of women and girls by analyzing the key challenges facing them to become a successful generation of leaders in businesses and politics in Africa and beyond.
The Network’s creation provides an innovative opportunity for academics, policymakers, NGOs, charities and other stakeholders to come together to focus on the core communicative skills required to succeed as leaders in businesses and politics, through a focus on the sociolinguistics of narrative. A foundational principle of the Network is to place the voices and stories of women and girls at its core.
The narratives focused upon span adolescence, early adulthood and later adulthood and brought together stories told by women and girls about their gender identities to investigate emergent patterns, where key information regarding language, gender identity and leadership can be found.
The development of the Language, Gender and Leadership Network is an innovative initiative, designed to demonstrate the crucial importance of communication and community-based storytelling as empowerment devices, enabling more women and girls to enter leadership positions in their societies, said Professor Louise Mullany, from the University of Nottingham.
She added that the network aims to inform and influence policymakers on the gender-based challenges currently being faced, alongside equipping women and girls with the aspirations, beliefs and skills required to succeed in future leadership positions.
Starting in Uganda and Kenya, we are developing a pan-African network of academics, NGOs, charities, human rights groups and other organisations, placing the voices of women and girls at the centre of the project- Dr Masibo Lumala, Moi University, Kenya.
Our goals align with key criteria for bringing sustainable change in international development, identified by the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, the World Humanitarian Summit and UN Women’s World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (WSRWiD 2014), that, if sustainable development and gender equality are to ever be achieved, research and interventions are required to embrace women’s equal and participation as leaders and decision-makers within their societies.
The Network is designed to change the life chances and choices of women and girls by collectively empowering them from within their communities, as well benefitting policymakers by giving them access to gender inequality evidence, identified by women themselves, in their own words.
There are three resources that are planned for the successful delivery of long-term impact and the overall legacy of this Network project:
1) A fully interactive, wiki-style website for women and girls’ life history stories to be told, shared and archived.
2) The development of a graphic narrative short story book.
3) Drama training resources, for use as an interventionist training toolkit.
The website will include the option of embedding links to external crowd-funding platforms, to fund particular participants with their entrepreneurial ideas, thus acting as a direct mechanism to provide economic enhancement and development to particular individuals within their local communities. This is based upon a successful model currently used by the University of Nottingham’s campaigns and alumni office, particularly for successful global funding of ideas in the developing world.
The long-term aim of the website is to bring together the lived experiences of women and girls across a number of countries, looking to establish broader common patterns, alongside specific socio-cultural differences, in order to inform international development policy.
The website can be used to gain clearer insights into people’s everyday life experiences and the life experiences of those around them as tools to shed light on societal power structures and dominant communication practices that work against gender equality.
The aim of this collective information-gathering is to act as a resource to establish connected communities to empower women themselves and to also be a useful resource to pinpoint the areas where policymakers should focus in order to bring about sustained socio-cultural changes to
enhance economic growth and improve the welfare of women by increasing their numbers in leadership positions in their local communities as entrepreneurs, business leaders and politicians.