Learning journey: We meet to part, we part to meet

Learning journey: We meet to part, we part to meet

Date: October 11, 2020
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By Sifisosami Dube

Johannesburg,  Eight years ago I made a career move to be in the trenches of gender equality work. This was a huge milestone in my life as it was my first job as a manager – responsible for five Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) country offices where Gender Links has offices. I quickly grasped the  GL’s organizational culture within the first few days in office. What struck me was that above all requisites of staff – passion and attitude seemed to rank highest. Without these, I would not have made the eight years. The drive and motivation from colleagues to learn kept me excited and on my toes. The underlying of GL modus operandi is learning by doing – matching theory into practice. This operation mode is what keeps strong institutions alive and going even in the toughest of times – for with them you lose nothing by trying.

I have held a mix of positions at Gender Links since 2012. These included overseeing the Governance Portfolio, managing the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance and leading on the Sexual Reproductive and Rights programme. Amongst all the portfolios, I enjoyed networking and partnerships the most – I recently learned how this links to my personality type. All portfolios have one thing in common – thinking outside the box. I have witnessed GL thriving with large pots of resources and innovating with the smallest pot of resources when other women’s rights organisations folded. A huge lesson in seasons of plenty and seasons of less resources is the need to learn from others, the need to join forces with others and the need to find motivation even when there is little hope.

Today I am about to hang my Gender Links coat, yet the imprints of continuous seeking of justice and equality will remain with me forever. When GL started intensive work on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), I had fear that we are venturing into the unknown. However, I kept pushing myself to learn more on SRHR – it is a vast field with many flowers and thorns to go through. This gives me hope that GL will continue to innovate though the passion to self-educate, learn from others and gathering evidence from the ground.

Having witnessed GL move from paper based systems to online systems that can be easily accessed remotely has reminded me of how I resisted some of these systems. Sometimes I laugh at my naivety and fear of systems. GL’s systems have stood the test of times including during the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to ravage the world. Without these, I would surely have been amongst confusion on how to continue the work during such a disaster. This is a lesson I take with me to embrace online systems and contribute towards optimum utilisation of these systems.

Resourcefulness is a continuous key word at GL. This includes the straight jacket fundraising initiatives, consortium fundraising and internal resourcefulness. The culture of synergy amongst GL’s programmes made me to quickly abort working in a silo. I now collaborate in a better manner with other units for I know that the resources are to be optimised. One thing I know for sure is that without innovation in resource mobilisation, institutions cease to exist. This is a practical lesson even in one’s daily life.

The theory of multiple roles of women is also reflected in my experience at GL. One as a programme person cannot separate management roles from administration work or finance work. Although this can prove overwhelming at times, it enabled me to have capacity to work as a one person unit when resources were few. When funding for women’s rights organisations dried up to lowest levels in 2017, GL was one of the few organisations that retained its staff without retrenching. I will use such examples as I grow in my career. There are many mistakes I made during my time at GL, however these are obscured by the will to rise up again and learn from one’s mistakes.

I take with me a fearless spirit which drives women to lead from the front and be recognised for their work. Today Gender Links is a well-known name at local, national, regional, continental and global level. I am happy to have been a part of these giant footprints over the years. I learned a lot from working hard, smart and playing hard. I remain Gender Linked for the destination to gender equality infinite.

We meet to part and we part to meet!

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