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Three Bolivian women smile and laugh together at a training workshop

From: Participatory communication - Footsteps 117

How to provide opportunities for people to share their ideas and influence change

Ana grew up in a typical Bolivian family where women had to be quiet. But her husband, a church pastor, could see her wisdom and he knew that her voice should be heard. So, little by little, he began to train and prepare her as a facilitator.

One day Ana’s husband announced that he wanted her to facilitate a church meeting. She was terrified and replied, ‘No! I do not know how to speak!’ Her husband gently replied, ‘God gave you talents. You must use them to help other women grow, like you have grown.’

When Ana was called to the front she was whispering, ‘I cannot do it!’ But she looked at her daughters sitting in the front row, and at the other women in the room, and she decided to try.

As Ana used her warmth and personality to skilfully facilitate the meeting, many women found the courage to speak, and her daughters were inspired to follow her example.

Building confidence

Ana was our mother. Sadly she died in 2017, but in our work as trainers of savings group facilitators, we often think about the way she encouraged us – and many others – to be brave, speak up, get involved and use our gifts and talents. 

When we are working with new facilitators we keep in mind the principles in the next section, learnt from Ana.

 
 Ana, a group facilitator in Bolivia, sits at a table and smiles into the camera

Ana (pictured here with her husband) brought out the best in people through her warmth and kindness. Photo: Sara Mamani Añamor

Small group training

Training tips

How to encourage facilitators
  1. Use the language of the heart

    It is important to communicate in a way that connects with people and brings out the best in them. This goes beyond words. Ana found that the best way to help women in rural Bolivia feel confident enough to speak was to smile and listen carefully to what they had to say.

  2. Share in hands-on activities

    Ana prepared food with people, and they talked, laughed and learnt together as they cooked.

  3. Promote conversation

    Small group discussions allow us to see that God has given us many answers.

  4. Model facilitation skills

    By overcoming her fear of speaking in public, Ana inspired many other women to also become facilitators.

  5. Celebrate participation

    Receiving a training certificate is an honour that the whole family can celebrate. This is especially important for people who have never received one before.

  6. Walk alongside people

    New facilitators need to know that they are not on their own. Be a good friend to them and share in their lives, concerns and joys.

  7. Provide encouragement

    People can be very critical of themselves, especially when they are developing new skills. Make sure that new facilitators are aware of all the good things they are doing.

  8. Prepare for difficulties

    Sometimes facilitators will face difficulties. Ana was given the title of pastor, but then it was taken away from her because she did not have a church of her own. She was not discouraged, saying, ‘The greatest title I will receive is from God. He knows my work.’

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Written by

Written by  Eva and Sara Mamani Añamor

Eva and Sara Mamani Añamor are Five Talents/Chalmers savings group trainers with local organisation Semillas de Bendición Bolivia. Visit the Chalmers website to download tools for savings group facilitators in English, French or Spanish.

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