When the weakest (whiskey) becomes the strongest

Trying to fix something backwards is usually not the best strategy. Over the past 1,5 years I’ve been part of process which in potential has a beautiful result to improve access for women’s health rights in Africa. They still have 1,5 years to go and many challenges to overcome. What has been my main challenge is to make sure they provide a research that gives a solid argument on why that improvement should take place in the various countries and have ideas on how that should be done. The problem was though that you work with people of different capacities and the research methodology I trained on is a learning process. Learning processes usually come along with going back and forth in your learning. When there is no time to do this, I get quite nervous, because I don’t like people to be set up to fail from the beginning. They need time to understand, contextualize and then apply new knowledge to their own experience. I get even more nervous when the expectations of the outcomes of the research change when the research has been done and you are asked to fix that at the end.

The past few days I’ve been struggling with the above dilemma and felt challenged to my limits in trying to get things right backwards. I don’t think I’ve succeeded totally, but also had to realize that there’s only so much you can actually influence. Moreover it will be the organisations that will get it right in the end. They just need a little more time. And sometimes they already do this at the beginning when you least expect it.

In October last year I shared a joke that was going round after a hail storm in Maputo (which only happens every 15 years or so in this sub-tropical country). It’s still funny:

God exists.
He sends us ice.
Next he will send us whiskey.

In relation to this I shared my doubt on whether my training actually had made sense to the Portuguese speaking participants, due to the language barrier, effectiveness of the methodology used and wondering about the capacity of civil society as it is assessed low in general in Mozambique. To pull things together after the training I had a conversation with the director and we put together a team of young women and a guiding university professor to do the actual research. She expressed: ‘Who knows, six months from now we will be surprised about how much we will have achieved by working with these young women, we just need to give them the opportunity.’ And it made me hope that the training had at least provided some ice, the young women now had to create the whiskey, without the necessary divine intervention.

Last night at 11 o’clock I started reading their report and out of the six it was the one that I couldn’t put down. They had gotten it right from the beginning and had proven to me that the weakest definitely can become the strongest – whiskey or not.

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