GL@15:  Listening, learning and influencing

GL@15: Listening, learning and influencing

Date: May 16, 2016
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Ellen J. Kullman, CEO of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., in the USA, and a former Director of General Motors, said: “With kids, they don’t do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Organisations don’t necessarily either. You’ve got to listen. You’ve got to learn how to influence.”  The listening, the learning and the influencing resonated with me. Thoughts of GL’s early days brought to mind the informal meetings – often during breaks at a workshop or conference or in a campus newsroom – that would result in proposals, concept notes and draft work-plans.  Time, to GL, was always and still is, a precious commodity, and outputs and outcomes were the order of the day.

It was the first week in May 2001, and Namibia was observing World Press Freedom Day, as well as the 10th Anniversary of the “Declaration of Windhoek on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press”.  The Media Technology Department at the Polytechnic of Namibia (now the Namibia University of Science and Technology) took advantage of the fact that media experts, representatives of UN agencies, donors, trainers and journalists would descend on the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek. We took advantage of this fact and organised a two-day Media Trainers’ Workshop just prior to the commencement of the Windhoek +10 event. The workshop was organised to hear the views of media experts regarding our draft journalism curriculum that was being prepared for implementation in January 2002.

As I seem to recall, it was definitely not a gender-aware journalism curriculum. Colleen Lowe Morna, CEO of Gender Links was present, and this was the start of a partnership that, to this day, holds a great deal of significance for the University and its people. The next step was to formalise the partnership with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the Vice-Chancellor and the CEO of GL. One of the first outcomes of this partnership was the publication “Gender in Entry-Level Journalism: Lessons from the Polytechnic of Namibia’s Department of Media Technology/Gender Links Pilot Project”, edited by Colleen Lowe Morna and Pauliina Shilongo.

The view expressed by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief of Operations, that: “Leadership is about making other’s better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence”, is possibly the starting point of GL’s successes.  We have all been so honoured and fortunate to have a leader of the stature and calibre of Colleen.  She’s all too acquainted with the need to ride shanks’ pony if it means that the nature of GLs work would be clearly illustrated and understood, outcomes delivered.

Governments, especially in the SADC region, have benefited immensely from the relevant research undertaken by Gender Links. Projects such as the Baseline Study on HIV and AIDS and Gender, the SADC and Gender 2005 Campaign, the National and Regional Gender Summits, and the Gender in Media Education Audit, among others, all served to enlighten leaders in government and civil society.  At the 4th National Gender Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, Agatha Moetie, President of the Namibia Local Authorities Officers (NALAO) said: “Gender Links makes our work easy. We complete our scorecards annually to ensure that the (Gender) Barometer would capture what is happening in our towns”.  Carmen Diaz, former Spanish Ambassador to Namibia said at the same event that the Embassy of Spain has seen the need to support the work of Gender Links, and seeks to consult with them in their work to address gender disparities.

Signing to the tuneA telling phenomenon in terms of the work of Gender Links is the diversity of women and men, the young and the not-so-young participants at the various events and initiatives organised and facilitated by Gender Links. Some of the most talented staff members cut their teeth in GL and became sought-after professionals to fill positions in other similar organisations. What a training ground GL has been and still is – just ask the interns who have been hosted there for months at a time.

Forming part of the women and men serving on the Board of Gender Links makes one part of a privileged few who get to see first-hand how an innovative team goes about their work. Whether in the Media- or Finance Department, or preparing meals in the kitchen of the GL Cottages, there is a sense of purpose and commitment among the staff members. This is where GLs real strength lies – in its people, and we are so fortunate to be part of a team with so much potential.

Emily Brown, Gender Links Chair. This blog post is written as part of the GL 15 years of service series.