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Be Curious. Stay Aware. Embrace Feminist Power.

by Chus Álvarez

The training on Facilitation as Feminist Leadership Praxis took place at the Io office in Manila. I quickly noticed that the place in front of me was not a regular one. It was a beautiful three-storey house, with a double staircase leading to the heart of a building with not so much of concrete walls, but clear glass windows and soft wood instead. Its welcoming appearance was just a metaphor of the lucidity and warmth I was to find inside. 

The training promotes learning through reflection on doing. We — and by we I mean 18 women activists from 14 countries, how cool is that? – practiced with tons of tools for developing our inner stance, facilitating and consensus building.  Experiencing every tool made it very clear to us that for a tool to be effective, it had to be matched with a process that was well implemented. As Susanna George summarised it, ‘no tool is the tool’.

The first exercise I embraced from the six-day training was to keep a journal for noting down my reflections, learnings and questions. In a world that seems to be moving faster and faster every day, with so many distractions and noisiness, investing the time to listen carefully to my thoughts was a real gift.

We did a lot of work to understand our inner stance and be aware of our own feelings, prejudices, and assumptions. The aim was to know how these shape not only the way we behave, but also the way we interpret all that happens around us. It is very important for any person trying to facilitate a conversation, to be aware of all her personal interpretations and biases. That was something we learnt at the very beginning of the training and something we kept practising throughout the whole process. 

When facilitating a conversation, we hold a space for a group of people to achieve certain tasks and reach certain outcomes. Holding this space gives us power. How can we then use that power in a feminist way? Well easy-peasy: (1) become aware of the power relationships within the group; (2) design processes that bring about balance while (3) encouraging each and everyone to become aware of her own power and the superpower of collectiveness. In this way, facilitation becomes a powerful tool to build stronger relationships and movements.

The last day, after our last checkout, my mind was bursting with new skills and learnings, with feelings and questions. I was sure I was not going to be able to retain all this knowledge. And I haven’t, but I have my notes for that and the support of both participants and facilitators. However two ideas were strongly imprinted upon me and has since become part of my daily life: turn defensiveness into self-reflection and judgement into curiosity. Because separating observations from interpretations may, or may not, be the highest form of intelligence, but what is true for me is that it allows me to better understand the inner and outer world. 

Thank you Io for the energy, love and knowledge you put into this!

About the Author
Chus Álvarez has a diverse working experience mainly on migration rights and social development. All her projects are strongly imbued with feminism because as she says “once I started to look at the world from a feminist lens, I’ve not been able to remove it again… even if sometimes I wish to do so.” She has been with the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women-International Secretariat since 2015 as a Programme Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. She is responsible for coordinating and strengthening the work of the alliance in the region. Please visit her blog, Itacattack.