Learning Journey: The more challenging things are, the more learning is built

Date: May 9, 2016
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aliice banzeThe secret of a success is passion and knowledge. No matter how challenging things can be if there is passion and knowledge about that specific issue you will get there slowly but surely. I am specifically talking about my professional work at Gender Links (GL), from rebuilding the office to fundraising and getting the Lusophone office functioning. I cannot complain because I do it with all my strength and energy.

The year 2015 was a true learning journey for me, particularly after feeling that as I had secured funds in my first year, life would continue in the same way. Suddenly I saw myself having to double my efforts to get more funds and roll out and cascade the COE local government (LG) work, Media, Alliance and many more. I had to deeply reflect and strategise to ensure that I prioritise correctly. This was the Panado for my work headache, although more still needs to be done.

Fulfilling the commitment and trust someone places in me, especially professionally, is one of my top priorities, because I always feel bad when things do not go well, or for some reason I feel that I cannot fully satisfy the expectations placed on me, due to various reasons, some of them out of my control.

I had then to decide to move on the COE LG process and complete the work that was pending while the media tool for the GMPS was being fixed. At some point I had to be grateful that the tool was being fixed, because it allowed me to move on with the Centres of Excellence in local government work. When I decided to move on with COE work I thought it would be easy, but it was also challenging due to the fact that Mozambique is so large and we had not yet trained gender focal persons (GFP) to support the process. The programme and finance person who was supposed to help was busy organising the office finances, which was also a priority for me to see it organised, especially being one of the most expensive countries in the region. I have to confess it was a challenging time.

It was indeed a learning journey that I went through during that specific period and year. A few months after all 19 councils had completed their action plans, the challenge still remained because the demands of the implementation of the action plan were huge. Funds for its implementation were not there, not only because GL had no funds to sponsor some activities, but because it was so difficult in some councils to understand and easily buy in to the approach of integration of the action plan within the council action plan. The actions plans were prepared long after the councils had finalised their own. The integration of gender is a challenging subject, especially in a patriarchal environment and context. It was difficult to understand that mainstreaming gender is a priority for the country and they also have a role to play.

After another few months of monitoring, a light of understanding started to shine and thanks to some councils that got the message clearly and were implementing their action plans, and had started to champion the process, others realised that it was possible to mainstream gender. As we move on we still need to empower GFP to do internal lobbying and get buy in from all senior staff within the councils with support from the mayors.

While the media tool was still being finalised, the M&E report and monitoring deadline was approaching and the challenge and pressure to spare some time to fundraise increased.

To make things even worse, we learned that the consultant for the entrepreneurship programme was not available to join the monitoring, therefore I had to lead the process. This took me away from focusing on fundraising, since this activity is not done via telephone, nor by skype, but face to face in several meetings and networks.

It was during this period that the office at HQ planned a visit to Mozambique to understand the country’s sustainability, since no funds were raised after the first fundraising a year ago.

This taught me that it is important to prioritise programme work, but fundraising should be the top priority, because if there are no funds no programme work can continue. I therefore started to dig deeper in my efforts to raise funds.

Almost at the end of the year, the first donor confirmed that they would provide GL with a small grant. This was a miracle. While we still had smiles on our faces, the other good news from the second donor came. GL was again confirmed as a recipient by another donor.

Although this news was a good reflection, a lesson was learned. Continue fundraising for big and multi-year grants that will sustain the coming years without compromising the work and creating pressure.

Another big lesson learned through this process was that we need to move from the normal traditional donors to many others, even if it means not always targeting financial resources, but also in-kind contributions and also involve the private sector.

This takes me back to the title of my learning journey which says THE MORE CHALLENGING THINGS ARE, THE MORE LEARNING IS BUILT. The knowledge and lessons learned helped me to become stronger and not give up when things are getting difficult.

Alice Banze, Executive Director of the Gender Links Lusophone Office