Leadership Lesson

My few years of international experiences as a teacher, volunteer, intern and volunteer have taught me the value in Education. Education can come in many forms: a girl in a rural village being sent to school like her brother, a farmer being taught new techniques in order to increase his yields, or business training to a group of women who have recently taken out loans to supplement their family’s income. Educating involves active listening, a willingness to participate in a discussion, and learn as well. No one is solely a teacher, no one has the right answer or solution to a problem. It might be apt to say that now we live in a time where we as a people do not want to have a dialogue and turn away from the problems that cause us discomfort or do not directly involve us. This is a reality for the whole world, Ethiopia and presently the United States.

I see the non-governmental agencies as the true educators in the field of development. In Ethiopia they are tasked with tackling challenging and crippling issues of poverty, women and children rights, droughts and flooding; the people in both the urban and rural areas depend on their advocacy and support. Presently, there are 3,077 registered NGOs at the Federal level in which 40% are operational. Children and women, health and HIV, and education are the major three sectors where NGO activities are concentrated. In Addis Ababa specifically there are 1,838 registered NGO but only 364 are operational. This begs this question of why the other NGOs are not functional. During our Wednesday seminar in which we discussed NGO’s in Ethiopia we learned that in addition to the mistrust of NGOs by the Ethiopian people, and the inability to fund more activities there is a question of value and the differing approaches and practices of NGOs and their donors and partners.

As a practitioner, it’s hard to see the mundane meetings, and administrative activities as pertinent in the field of development. When you see women and girls who were trafficked from the urban enclaves to the Middle East for forced domestic work, prostitution, or to make money for her family it’s hard to see how holding seminars for communication and team building are important. However, I was asked by my organization to prepare two seminars, one on leadership and the other on communication and social media. After preparing a short presentation and a few activities, I presented to the project managers at MCDP on the different styles of leadership and how we can be effective leaders in our organization and our Addis community. I was simply amazed at the feedback I received. One project manager who works on the Women to Women project hugged me and thanked me for supporting and empowering him and his colleagues. His reaction spoke to the need for community leaders to first learn first how to lead before taking on the difficult task of imparting and empowering others. Educating and passing information, techniques, and skills is quite powerful. I was disappointed when I didn’t think I would be able to do any field work with MCDP, however I now think I served a greater purpose for the organization. I helped to fulfill their need of equipping the leaders of Ethiopia in order to help cultivate and shape the future leaders of the world.

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