Learning Journey: Learning is a lifelong journey

Date: May 5, 2016
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To be or not to be? That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.’ Hamlet in William Shakespeare

SikhonzileNdlovu_learning2015 has arguably been my most trying year at Gender Links (GL). It felt like ‘waiting for the rain’. You never know when it will fall. When the clouds gather, you watch with anticipation. So has been managing the 2015 Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) research. You keep hoping ‘things’ would happen. But was I wrong!

When we did the last Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) in 2010, I told myself it would be my last, just like I always say about summits. But five years later, here I am, in the middle of another GMPS. I ask myself how this happened. You see, the GMPS is never short of drama. This year’s is no different. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would say the GMPS is jinxed!

Notwithstanding, my spirit has refused to be crushed. I still smile in the face of my ‘sea of troubles’ and ‘rock them high heels’. The successes of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender have kept my eyes firmly on the ‘bigger picture.’ It is not all gloom and doom.

In 2015, most of my work involved coordinating the regional GMPS and the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) study in 14 countries. The most important deliverable for the year was ensuring completion of the GMPS by August 2015. We started the year on a high note with the idea of an online internet based monitoring system. This would help us keep track of progress across countries as the research progressed. An online system would also reduce logistical nightmares of manually transporting the disks with the monitored databases.

Little did I know that we would spend seven months getting the online tool up and running. By June, there was growing frustration from the team leaders and researchers. Our research teams increasingly found it hard to plan their work in light of the ‘pending research’. We kept promising that the tool would be ready as soon as possible, but that was not to be. The question that most team leaders asked was why we were not using the 2010 ‘tried and tested’ tool. In the past we have used an access database. By then I was considering using Epi, which is a much more user friendly data capture system. But the hope and desire for a much more innovative tool kept me hoping for the best. We eventually got the tool running on the 29th September, by which time the student researchers were planning for exams and the team leaders deep in their work. Of course, I expected them to drop everything and start monitoring.

This has been the greatest test on my patience and resilience and am sure of GL as a whole. Never have we waited seven months for a system to run. In hindsight, I realise I should have counted my loss and taken other options by mid-year. You see, keeping a team of researchers and partners waiting has a bearing on my integrity and credibility. Some days I just wanted to up and go, but am naturally not a quitter. There was something deep inside me that wanted to finish what I had started. This came with a price – cutting short my annual leave. I had to do what needed to be done.

GENEVAI ask myself what I could have done differently. Honestly, it was clear by May that we were running in crisis mode but I still held on. My mistake was trusting in the hope of an efficient, smooth running system. I say ‘hope’ because this was something new to GL as well. We live and learn. Now that we are nearing the end of the project I say ‘perhaps’ the months of waiting were worth it.

Gains made with the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG) provided the much needed relief from the GMPS toils. Working with a diverse global group has been the greatest and most rewarding learning experience. This has driven home the point that you win some and you lose some.

I see 2016 as a year of new beginnings. The year has a lot of promise for me and am ready for what it has to offer.

Written by Sikhonzile Ndlovu, Media and Communications Manager, Gender Links