Learning Journey: Is it the end or the rebirth?

Date: May 16, 2016
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“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” Thomas A. Edison

Manteboheleng Mabetha2015 was the year in which the targets of the SADC Gender Protocol were coming to an end. It was the year in which the MDGs were also coming to an end. During the district local summits (DLS) and the national summit I often came across questions from participants as to whether GL would cease to exist after 2015 as the organisation was working towards the achievement of the SADC Gender Protocol. My response to all these questions was “Never, GL is not only about the achievement of the SADC Gender Protocol but it is an organisation that will continue to exist until there are no more inequalities left”. This was the answer that I provided with a lot of confidence and I believed so much that it was true.

If anybody asks me that question now, I honestly do not know what answer to give. This is not because my view about the organisation has changed but because of the learning that has taken place during the year 2015. The journey started during the planning in January 2015. A special session on fundraising was held for managers. I remember sitting there and thinking; “Do I have the skills to write a proposal? What if I write a proposal and it gets rejected, how am I going to feel about myself?” Nonetheless I sat through the training and part of what we had to report on every month was to update the fundraising efforts that we had been engaged in in each country.

My first attempt at fundraising was to write letters to corporates trying to source funding for the DLS summits because we had very little money and could not cover the summit. I wrote about ten letters and I only got responses from two, who said that they could not provide assistance because our line of work was not within the parameters of what they usually assisted. I was happy to have received a response as no response would have shattered my confidence because I wondered if my letters were even read.

 We have a three year contract with the European Union (EU) that is coming to an end in 2016. When I  heard that the EU was soon to issue a call for proposals, I started to have hope and believed that if they sponsored the office in the first project, they would like to see the follow up results and would therefore continue sponsoring the office. When the call came through, I enthusiastically wrote up the concept paper for submission. I remember the due date was August 6 and it was submitted well in time. Within about one week, on the 14 August 2015, I received a letter stating that we had got through to the next round. I was over the moon with joy because I believed that we had made it. I trusted in the ability of the organisation and the expertise of the staff and their experience in proposal writing and I believed that nothing could go wrong.

 We worked together with all the staff who are involved in the chain and submitted the proposal in time on the 30 September 2015. All we could do was to sit and wait for the good news for which I so eagerly hoped. I will never forget the day on the 29 October 2015, while I was out in the field facilitating the stages 4 & 5 workshop at Motanasela Council, when I received a call from the intern telling me that the EU had delivered the letter. I hastily asked her to open it and read it to me. She read it out loud and even now as I write this learning journey the words, “However, I regret to inform you that your full application could not be considered”, are still ringing in my head. My whole world came to a standstill. I could not believe what I had heard and I asked her to stop reading and to scan it and send it to me so that I could read it for myself. That night I had very little sleep because the question that kept coming to my mind was: “is this the end of GL Lesotho or is there any hope?”

 I soon began to revert to the other critically important grant for GL regional which is FLOW and I put all my hopes and dreams into succeeding withmante that. By November the reality was beginning to kick in and other alternatives were being explored with regard to offices that have not been able to secure the funds and this is when I got the wakeup call. I started to seriously hunt for calls for proposals and started to initiate an interest to apply to my manager. I began to realise that making sure that the organisation survives is not only the responsibility of the CEO but of everybody who is part of the organisation.

 In December, FLOW gave us another devastating response that the application that has been rejected. This time around the shock was a whole lot better than when I received the rejection from the EU because I had learned to accept the situation. Out of these rejections, I have learned the importance of diversification and not looking at one source of funding. I have learned to take responsibility and to take initiative to ensure that the Lesotho office continues. I have now taken to heart the words of Thomas A. Edison when he says; “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  I might not have secured any funds to date but what I have learned is that I will continue trying again and again and will never give up. I now know that this is certainly not the end but a rebirth.

Written by Mabetha Manteboheleng , Lesotho Country Manager.