Dispatches from the field: The training that changes women’s lives.

At the end of October, Artistri Sud Executive Director, Jennifer Lonergan, spent 7 days in rural Chile, overseeing the implementation of the organization’s successful entrepreneurship training program. In this first instalment of the series in which she shares her reflections from the field, she tells us some of the highlights from the most recent program.

A week-long boot camp.  

participant in training signs up One of the most moving parts of the training is always the last day, when the women revisit an activity they did when they first arrived. In this ice-breaker, they have a few minutes to run around the room, writing their names down underneath headings on sheets of paper which are meant to describe them. The headings include anything from “Mother,” “Weaver”, to “community-builder” and “entrepreneur.” On the first day, the women are very modest and concrete in their own eyes. Most self-identify as mothers and by their functional expertise—like weaver, knitter, spinner—a few may branch out as far as “learner” and there may be a couple of bold “teachers”. But by and large, their vision of themselves is very limited. They fit into a couple of practical, concrete, limited boxes, and that’s it.

Taking stock.

women in the entrepreneurship training self-identifyOn Day 5, we repeat this activity. It’s not really a Key Performance Indicator, but it is a way of taking the pulse to see how far we’ve come. This exercise provides a glimpse of the transformation that has occurred within just five days. And this time was no different than any other. On Monday, the women were mothers and weavers; on Friday, they were Businesswomen. Leaders. Community builders. Entrepreneurs. And more.   A whole world had opened up for them in five days, starting exactly where it needed to—with their own vision of themselves. What was that quote by Henry Ford: Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” And so it is.

Participants share their reflections.

Julia volunteers to share her experience with the group—an act all the more surprising, because she barely spoke all week. “When I arrived, I was quiet and shy. After this week, I feel completely changed–I’m leaving my timidity behind, once and for all!” She’s triumphant, her determination exceeded only by her joy–she beams as the rest of the group erupted into applause. “Things are totally different for me too,” says Luz. “I’m so excited about what I can do next, with everything I learned here.” “I was able to learn so much,” Nely adds. “I am so grateful for the opportunity. I feel so supported with all the things I have learned and people I have met. This program has strengthened me so much. I am part of a group of indigenous weavers, and I will share with them everything I have learned, so they will benefit too!”

Empowered participant beamsThe final word.

A few days later, on social media, on the eve of the beginning of the coaching program which lasts one year and will provide the support they need to assure longer-term success, one participant sums it up: “As time goes by, I realize more and more, how important this training was. This experience marks a before and after in the lives of many of those who participated. Congratulations, and thank you. Today we begin the first year of our change.”

 

Please consider making a monthly gift to provide opportunities for women globally to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. http://www.artistrisud.org/cover-page/make-a-donation/#sthash.6KVd0udH.dpbs

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