Monday, July 7, was the first day of the July session of EFLI’s Activating Leadership program for new participants and Additional Offerings (AO), aptly titled Awakening Feminist Leadership, which is a program for returning participants. Twenty two new EFLI participants walked in that first day buzzing with nervous energy, excited to start the day off with making their own name tags (all very creative!) and eating breakfast together. Introducing ourselves with name, location, school, role, and favorite female character from the media, as well as miming something we enjoy to do, helped participants and the team familiarize ourselves with everyone and break the ice.
Then came the serious (but fun) stuff. An important first step to creating a safe and welcoming community for everyone is to create a set of community agreements. In order to facilitate the creation of this year’s agreements the fellows put on quick improvised skits, showing either what a community agreement should or should not look like. After a bit of laughter and discussion, community agreements were sealed by all and we were ready move into a discussion of one of the most important questions of the program: what makes a leader?
To begin to formulate answers to this large and thought-provoking question, Activating Leadership participants were given “body parts” that represented corresponding traits. For example: “arms” represented a support system and community, “legs” represented foundation and being grounded, etc. Participants were then asked to decorate the body part to depict the characteristics a leader needs within that trait. When each body part was decorated, we combined all the “body” parts and their corresponding traits into one person in order to create an “ideal” leader. We came up with “Fish”, a non-gendered person who embodies everything we want in a leader. This was the perfect segue into a brainstorming session to create a working definition of leadership. This is what we came up with: Leadership is being "strong" while guiding others towards positive change by putting ideas into action.*
Meanwhile, the Awakening Feminist Leadership participants worked alongside Ahimsa, the program fellow, Dorian and Praise, the facilitators, in the Makers Space to begin their journey. Each was asked her full name, her mother’s full maiden name, and her maternal grandmother’s full maiden name. Together, they explored a history of maternity so often forgotten, wondering why perhaps it was hard to remember each woman's maiden name, as well as the importance of remembering. The day progressed into asking the questions: “If my life right now was a chapter in a book, what would the chapter be called and what’s going on in it? What do I want the next chapter of my book to be, and how do I step over that threshold?” Together, life stories, goals, and inspirations were shared.
The day ended with a tour of Eileen Fisher HQ, sharing highs and lows of the day and our ritual closing: quilt squares. Besides being tired, participants were so happy to have met new people and begin the process of sharing new experiences. It was an incredible day!
*As we've been exploring themes of connection and connectivity so far, we have been reflecting on how our definition of leadership is constantly changing. In using the word "strong" we mean resilient, capable, vulnerable, a capacity to persevere, and to have conviction