Why? Today I was privileged to attend the final afternoon of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Workshop put on by the Diocese of Khartoum. The title of the workshop was Starting My Own Small Business employing the verse from Nehemiah 2:17 “Let us rebuild the broken walls.”
I arrived a little after noon, while breakfast was still being eaten. I was informed that the participants came from four other dioceses other than Khartoum; Port Sudan, Malakal, Elobeid and Kadguli. Another group participating was from the Cathedral in Khartoum, yet another was made up of sister churches and the community.
Throughout the meeting, prayer was woven into the meeting, whether with bowed heads or singing or drama. I smiled, when due to having eaten and then the power being cut, there was a tendency to find heads dipping. Then I laughed when I learned that anyone individual spotted nodding all the women rose and did clapping and singing to wake everyone up.
The facilitators were Mama Darias Kwaje Misaka and Harriet Baka Nathan, two great women working to train and support women throughout the Province of Sudan.
Since most of the ending presentations were in Arabic (sessions were split between that and English) I had an opportunity to glance around at the walls.
The Course Objectives were displayed front and center: 1) to equip women with knowledge and skills to engage in some form of self-employment, 2) to create awareness of their own qualities and latent skills which could help them to adapt to an entrepreneurial mindset, 3) to launch their own small business, and finally, 4) to help the participants understand that they must develop attitudes conducive to generating independent initiatives using inherent skills to build livelihoods for themselves.
The newsprint listing their expectations stated: have a good experience, learn new skills, learn how to start a business, time management, and the ability to teach others.
Their fears were: that they would not over come laziness, the fear of failure, the government policies that not allow them to succeed, an inability to understand, and the fear of the unknown.
I was asked to share my knowledge of technology, the internet and e-business. Do not laugh, Gary and Kathryn. Everyone listened as I spoke first and then the translator. Words like “Google” and “internet” translate the same. Everyone took notes.
Their final task of the conference was to define a group Project or Small Business and to develop a plan highlighting the goal, objectives, activities, responsibilities, time frame and budget. They worked in teams.
As they went about finding places to meet, I was struck by how quietly they were working, especially the group of ten from the Khartoum Diocese.
Women were speaking softly and letting each other speak. Unbelievable.
Even though it was very hot, they continued discussing and planning. I cannot assist anyone. They are planning in Arabic.
At 3:30 PM the wrap-it-up warning sounded, using a very large and loud bell. Diocesan Convention could use one of these bells along with a judicious bell ringer.
Here are the groups and their projects.
Group One – Province – Eradicate Illiteracy around the Cathedral
Group Two - Dioceses – Find Solutions to Tribal Violence
Group Three – Sister Churches and Community – Small Business Specializing in knitted work and design
Group Four – Khartoum Diocese – Training of Small Skills of self-reliance
Group Five – Trainers Facilitators – Reduce Poverty in their specific region.
Prevalent in each of the proposals was the partnering with the Mothers Unions throughout Sudan and financial support from other Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s).
At the end of the presentations, the conference wrapped up by cleaning up the room and heading out for tea. Or so I thought.
At the end of each of these training conferences, certificates are awarded to each participant. These are handed out by representatives from the Provincial Staff (Rev. Deng), the Diocesan Staff (Rev. Musa), the Mothers Union Leader from the Khartoum Diocese, and other honored guests. Turned out I was an honored guest.
The Rev. Daniel Deng Anhiany. a colleague at the Provinccial office, had opened the conference and was slated to close it with prayer. However, in between there was singing, drama skitsdancing, and speeches. Turned out I was given the opportunity to speak. It was only one of two in English. The Diocesan Bishop’s Commissioner, The Rev. Daniel Musa, translated for me the rest of the time. (That's him in the birhgt shirt and pants.)
Right before the certificates were awarded, presents were passed out to the hosting staff, Mamma Darias, Harriet Baka, and me. (You remember how much I love presents.)
At the end of the ceremony, came dinner.
Chicken from the Delmarva Peninsula.