We Are Feminist Leaders’ 12-week online programme is a collective learning experience that is greatly enriched by the individual stories of every feminist who generously shares their experiences and change-making dreams with others on the programme. We wanted to capture how participants engage with the programme and explore what impact it had in order to craft a mosaic of participants’ diverse feminist leadership journeys. We asked participants to share whatever they wanted to. We were particularly interested in the rough as well as the smooth. The personal and the political. The discomfort as well as the joy.
There are many different nuances in their stories — but as we started to piece them together, patterns started to emerge. As you will see, participants paint a picture of the power of love, leadership and care. Their words tell us much about the solace and solidarity that community brings. But this is not the full story of how the feminist leadership journey has impacted participants’ lives — part of the mosaic includes a sharper analysis of power, how it operates and how we hold it. It involves a critical analysis of one’s own life choices. It has spurred some people to rethink how they are living their lives. We will unveil more in the upcoming second part of our blog.…
Please note, these are participants’ own words. We thank them for the power of their stories.
“For me, the Feminist Leadership Programme turned out to be a place of solace and comfort. I recognised and drew support from the fact that there are many of us sailing in the same boat — trying to piece together how to create care-based value systems in organisational cultures that are not always created with care at the center. I was challenged to take my reflections further and imagine what a love-based value system in an organisation would look like (gratitude to Hope Chigudu, Chela Sandoval and other feminists for walking these paths ahead of us). I still quite haven’t figured that one out, but I am ruminating on it. Unexpectedly, I was also reassured that even being in the international development sector now, I have feminist role-models and a feminist community around me. Perhaps not as politically visible or as organised as in my previous professional settings, but nonetheless present… and possibly or hopefully pushing in the same direction as me.”
“[Learning about feminist leadership] reminded me that all of us deserve care, whoever we are — and that the more the society pushes us down, the more taking care of ourselves and our people is a radical act of resistance. This inherent place of care at the centre also continues to remind me that we are not alone in the work — not patriarchy’s hero archetypes but together in this, best when we help ourselves and each other to show up as our best selves. As feminist leaders we are building a new world and if we can’t be full humans — having fun and gentleness and love as an integral part of the process — what kind of world are we modelling? When does the struggle end, and how do we learn to be citizens of the world that we want to create? As Emma Goldman said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.”
“From this journey, I will keep the reflection that brought me to understand better my place in the world, and the constant need for self-analysis to fight against bias, without denying myself permission to make mistakes. But the most powerful learning was to reaffirm that care, empathy, and love are the only way to change the system. I am grateful for the people I have met, the continuous learning, and the sorority. In front of the resistance that we face every day, these moments were precious.”
Tanit Iglesias Zayas
“One of the key learnings I took away from the course was the importance of leading with love. As the founder of my own feminist movement, Unmothering the Woman, I believed that leadership rooted in compassion could create a supportive and empowering environment for everyone working in this space. But I had never known it was an actual concept ingrained in feminist theory, let alone knowing and understanding that I could put it into practice. After gaining this valuable insight, my foremost goal is to emphasize the importance of active listening and compassion. It’s crucial that each person in our organization feels heard and appreciated. Furthermore, I will work towards fostering authentic relationships founded on mutual respect, reliance, and acceptance — establishing an atmosphere of nurturing encouragement within our team. At the end of the course, Natalie and Leila asked us to write down a few principles that will drive me forward as I work towards creating policies and practices that are focused on collective action and solidarity. I wrote in my journal: I want to share my power, I would like to acknowledge my privilege in all spaces I am in, I will and continue to challenge patriarchy, I will embrace self-care in all its forms, I will embrace a feminist intersectional lens at work, I will continuously strive to create a supportive, inclusive, and equitable environment where everyone can thrive and contribute their unique talents and perspectives and I WILL lead with LOVE.”
If you’re as inspired by these words as we are, you can find out more about our upcoming 12-week feminist leadership programme here. The programme starts in September 2023 and places will be available to book from 7 June 2023. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog…
NB The different pieces of this mosaic were compiled by the co-founders of We Are Feminist Leaders — Natalie Brook and Leila Billing. But the words belong to participants themselves.