Diane Kellogg is the Student Success Coordinator for the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program and currently in her last semester of the MA program in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Diane began her work with WPLP as the mentoring coordinator in 2012. It was through her mentoring research that the first enhancements to the mentoring program were made. Diane has worked with as a coordinator for a number of coalitions, with focuses on substance abuse prevention and youth gang prevention. She has also has experience in program development, monitoring and evaluation and engaging community collaborations and mobilization.
Yago: Diane, welcome to this blog where we are engaged in creating awareness on the energies that keep enslaving humanity. In this interview we want to talk about the current situation of women and their role in the peacebuilding field. You are currently the Student Success Coordinator for Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP). This program is an initiative to empower women to use their gifts in the tasks of building peace. I believe in the urgent need of integrating women in leadership positions. Still in many places in today’s world women are excluded from public decision-making, leadership, and educational opportunities.
Could you share with us the origin of Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP)? How it came into birth?
Diane: The origin of the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP) grew into existence as there became an increased recognition that women were missing at higher level peacebuilding leadership positions. The recognition surfaced through papers such as the 2009 United Nations Development Fund for Women paper, and articles such as the 2005 article titled “The Role of Women in Peacebuilding” by Lisa Schirch PhD and Manjrika Sewak, along with what Women peacebuilders from around the world were experiencing.
In the summer of 2011 11 women from eight national origins gathered at EMU to discuss the need for a Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program. It was out of that meeting the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program was birthed.
Yago: Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership is an infant program. This program is just beginning to explore the challenging task to trained women peacebuilding leaders in contexts of conflict. Monitoring and evaluation is fundamental tool in this learning process. Could you share with us why is so important and the learning obtained at this stage of the program?
Diane: What comes to mind is, if you know better you do better. When the program was developed it was with the knowledge that was had at that time. There wasn’t a model to work from so we were creating the model. Through rigorous monitoring and evaluation we have been able to make some enhancements as we continued to implement the program and others we designed into the program for the next cohort. The learnings and enhancements that I am most familiar have to do with, mentoring, the praxis seminar, support group recognition and the monitoring and evaluation plan. I think the biggest learning is how well the WPLP staff work together to be responsive to the needs of the program. We are also fortunate to be nested in CJP with faculty who are equally responsive.
Yago: What has attracted to your current job within the Women’s Peacebuilding leadership Program? Could you share with us the main areas of concern within your responsibility?
Diane: There are many things that attracted me to my current position. I believe in the work we do and the way we do it. I am drawn to development with a strong emphasis on monitoring and evaluation. I like working with a team and I am grateful for the team I work with.
My current responsibilities are, the mentoring component of the program, provide academic support, assist with the implementation of the Praxis Seminar and assist with the redesign of the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.
Yago: This program gives great importance to mentoring and coaching dimension. Why is so fundamental? What challenges are you experiencing in this regard?
Diane: The mentoring component of WPLP is important for two reasons; first the mentor is a resource available to the participant as she adds an academic course load into her already busy life, also the mentor helps the women integrate the skills they are learning into the context they are living and working.
We are currently in our third class of women and we have used the learnings along the way to develop the current mentoring component. A couple of the key learnings we have used in redesigns have to do with the pairing strategy and the monitoring. The initial paring method was externally constructed with proximity to each other not being a factor. We now ask the women to select their own mentor who they can easily meet with. We have also had to revise or monitoring of the mentored pair. We found that we had a drop off in our “monthly check-ins” at six months. At this point we lost our ability to monitor the relationship because of lack in responses. What we learned was it wasn’t that the mentored pair wasn’t meeting, it was more about asking these already busy women to respond to one more email. Our solution to increase our monitoring ability was to incorporate the mentor meetings and questions about those meetings into the assignments the participants were already doing. This did two things for us; it increased our monitoring ability and it increased the connection of the mentor into the program.
Yago: How important it is the networking among women in this field? What are its benefits?
Diane: Through networking the women share experiences, resources and support. Networks break the isolation barriers that are sometimes felt when working in systems and regions that are experiencing conflict.
Yago: Currently the program includes women leaders from very different cultural backgrounds (Somaliland, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Pacific Islands…). Could you share with us your personal learning experience of interacting with these women?
Diane: Working with these woman is very humbling. Although they come from different cultures there is the same light shining through them. They are courageous, hardworking and dedicated to bringing more peace to their region. Many are able to balance family, work and their academics while in this program, and they do so with gratitude.
Yago: WPLP encourages institutional gender mainstreaming but often the culture of the organizations itself sabotages it. WPLP sends women into settings where there is a lot of patriarchy and hierarchy. Women need to be extremely resilient to navigate in such settings. How important is training for resiliency in WPLP?
Diane: One of the latest additions to our program was developed to address the settings the women live in, and build resilience within those settings. We are aware that many of the women are already challenging cultural norms just by being the leaders they are. To help the women build resilience within their settings we believe it was necessary to recognize those individuals who are closest to them, for the important role they play in supporting her as she expands her peacebuilding and leadership skills. In doing this we hope to empower the support structure surrounding the women, and empower the women to use the support structure they have surrounding them. We did this by asking the women to give us a list of 10 people who offer the most support to them. We sent a letter and a peace dove pin to each of those people, highlighting the important role they have in the women’s life as she participates in WPLP, and how much they are appreciated for that role. We have received positive feedback so far from this gesture, with the support group wearing their peace doves proudly and being available when needed.
Yago: WPLP needs to be a gender-sensitive one, men and women have to be working together. Why is so important that interaction? What are the risks of one gender focus?
Diane: Although our current cohorts are strictly women we do know that it takes women and men working together inclusively. We are teaching the women peacebuilding and leadership theory and skills but many of the women have male mentors, and many have designated men in their support group. The practice work each women does as part of the program often involves men. I believe that two of the changes we have made to the program, allowing the women to pick their own mentor and recognizing a support group that surrounds the women has helped WPLP be more gender-sensitive. We also believe it is important to work with mixed gender cohorts, and look forward to doing that some day.
Yago: Diane, thanks for sharing with us about this prophetic program in the peacebuilding field.
Diane: Thank you Yago for the interview.