In July, Nicolas Verdot travelled to Benin to familiarize the people living there with visualization techniques. In collaboration with the Institute of Cultural Affairs Benin (ICA), he held a one-week workshop to introduce the participants to the work as facilitator. Nicolas focused the workshop on women’s rights, as this topic lies close to his heart and women in Africa to this day have a completely different status than most of us know it from our home countries. Even sadder that only few women were able to attend. But despite the fact that mainly men participated in Nicolas’ workshop, the participants were able to achieve considerable progress in only a short amount of time. And now, the rookie facilitators are on their mission to create space for communication in Benin and Africa and they are supporting not only women’s rights but also topics like education, water accessibility and many more.
We at Neuland supported the project as part of our initiative “Drawn to help, help to draw” with the necessary material, as we believe that every single step in the right direction – no matter how small it may seem – brings us closer to our goal. And through visualization, we can make people aware of today’s challenges and facilitate communication.
You can read more about Nicolas’ experience in his letter:
Dear Team Neuland
It was a very great journey for me. I had the chance to meet many people and discover a new culture, a new way of thinking and acting.
At the beginning of the week, I was very surprised by the number of women present the first out of five days … only ONE! You can probably imagine how surprised I was and how disappointed. During the preparation, we counted around 15 to 20 women with the local Institute of Cultural Affairs “ICA Benin”. In the end, there were four women after all. Why only four women? Because the workshop was very far from the villages in the north (and too dangerous to go there). And because women have the responsibility of taking care of the children, the household, and also have to work, they weren’t able to participate in the event. Some others didn’t get the approval of their husband to join the community! Yes, it sounds crazy but “welcome in Africa”, where women sometimes are their husbands’ slaves. I had a lot of discussions with men during the workshop to open their mind to women’s rights and how it is for women working in Europe. I sometimes had the feeling to talk to my grandfather.
BUT 🙂 this was only my first impression. In the end, the workshop was a great success. One of the four principles of the “Open Space” method is: “Whoever comes is the right people”. And this is true!
We had a lot of people working for different NGOs with different purposes: women’s rights, water accessibility, nutrition, education, health, and many more. The four women that joined me were very courageous women with a strong character and a lot of energy and the ambition to change the world and the position of women in Africa. For sure, I’m convinced they will make a difference in Benin. Moreover, we are all convinced that collective intelligence can be the key to solve a lot of problems in Benin.
During the first three days, the focus was on the technique of participation training:
- Focused/structured conversation: a way to facilitate group discussion
- Consensus workshop
- Action plan
During the training, we asked participants to select workshop topics to experiment with each method. The topics included: tree days, how to reduce and remove plastic, how to create a healthy city, how to improve the life of women, and how to create access to water for everybody. This action plan will be implemented throughout several community events.
The two last days were focused on graphic facilitation. One day for the basics and the other day about how to use the power of visual facilitation with different templates and techniques. For the second part, we focused on the development of their local ICA to identify which impact they can achieve during the next years.
At the end of the training, participants made a commitment to:
- Strengthen facilitation activities
- Advertise themselves as facilitators to help local people with their activities
- Involve young people
- Animate sessions in local languages
- Find materials for the rooms
- Participate in and finance radio missions, to share what facilitation and graphic facilitation is around Benin and Africa
- Facilitate training with recognized institutions to attract partners
One of the attendees even committed to donate 5 hectares of land to an NGO.
And the most beautiful part: They committed to becoming professional facilitators and to “change culture and women’s rights through facilitation”.
I am very proud to be part of the creation of a new world for these people trying to have a better life!