At the request of VNG International, as part of the exchange activity “African women in local government: Changing the face of local leadership”, The Hague Academy organised a leadership course for 20 female local leaders from 11 different African countries.

The focus of this 2-day training course was placed on representation and visionary leadership. During the first day, the women explored different roles of representation through self-assessment, discussion and role play. In the afternoon they visited the Dutch Parliament, learned about the Dutch electoral system and spoke with MP Kathleen Ferrier.

On the second day the leaders presented visions they had for making their areas of jurisdiction a better place. They had discussions on how to deal with resistance to change and how to mobilise people in their communities. Communicating and consulting with citizens and other key stakeholders on planned actions were pointed out as extremely important. Furthermore, they explored how lessons from the world of theatre can help with speaking in front of groups. Through practising with different ways of conveying a message, the participants learned how to speak in a truly convincing manner.

Also present at the training was Mary Okumu of UNCDF, who participated on behalf of the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) programme, a new initiative in which UNCDF, UNIFEM and UNDP have joined forces to improve women’s effective participation in local government, to help meet their specific needs and address gender inequalities. Mary shared many inspirational examples and insights she has gained through working on women’ empowerment throughout  Africa.

Throughout the entire exchange activity, the learning environment was very positive, participants felt free to speak about challenges they face, ask each other for advice and give feedback. This active participation led to the generation of promising new ideas, for example starting up a network of women local councillors in Tanzania. Since VNG International plans to continue their good work in strengthening the position and capacities of African women in local government, we expect to see many more powerful initiatives in the future!