At an Oxfam Canada (OC) partner forum held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in September 2009 numerous organizations identified a gap in communication and documentation, and requested OC to support a capacity building project to improve their skills and knowledge in these areas. Based on this identified need, OC discussed the opportunity with a long-time partner, the Southern African HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), and the two organizations collaborated to roll out a series of trainings in communication and documentation for all partner organizations who are part of the OC Engendering Change (EC) program in Zimbabwe. The central aim of the EC program in Southern Africa is to strengthen organizations that are working to address Gender-Based Violence (GBV) at individual, organizational and societal levels, with HIV and AIDS as a cross-cutting issue.
From January to June 2010, three sets of trainings were held for fourteen staff members from four OC partner organizations, namely: Musasa, Matabeleland AIDS Council (MAC), SAfAIDS and Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN). The first beginner level training focused on basic documentation skills such as report writing, print and electronic media, conference communication, as well as developing information, education and communication (IEC) materials. The second intermediate level training focused specifically on documenting good practices, in recognition of the fact that much of the good work being done in Zimbabwe to address issues of gender inequality and HIV and AIDS goes unrecorded and thus unrecognized. The third advanced level training focused on writing, editing and communication skills.
Throughout the trainings, participants were encouraged to journal and keep a personal account of their own learning process. Beyond this, each organization was provided with a grant after the first training to put their new skills to work by documenting at least two good practices or case studies related to their work in communities. SAfAIDS staff provided on-site mentoring to each partner to support their capacity building process and select participants were engaged in a pilot e-learning process as a way of providing ongoing follow-up support to the trainings.
Two publications have emerged from this project – one that profiles good practices and case studies as written by the participating organizations, called Telling Our Stories: Lessons from Gender and HIV Programming in Zimbabwe; and another that highlights the personal learning experiences of the participants, called Personal Journeys of Growth: Building Capacity, Building Confidence in Gender and HIV Programming.
It is hoped that by reading the personal accounts and organizational successes in these publications, other organizations will be inspired and empowered to implement similar programs in their own communities.