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Paying It Forward: GWIM Alumni Networks

Former GWIM alumnae are coming together to inspire and empower others.

Upon completing various Plan International USA Global Women in Management (GWIM) workshops, the seven alumnae founders of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative of Liberia (WEIL) returned home with renewed motivation. They were determined to share the knowledge and skills, gained from GWIM, with other Liberian women did not have the opportunity to attend a training workshop with Plan.

The women believed that working together as a team would provide an opportunity to share their newfound skills and assist others in implementing community programs. With these goals in mind, they formed and registered WEIL in 2015. WEIL serves as a network to collaborate with local partners and complement existing government initiatives for achieving Liberia’s 2030 Vision Agenda for Transformation of Change in Gender Equality. WEIL’s programs focus specifically on improving the socio-economic and political state (and capacity for growth) for women in Liberia.

Since its establishment, WEIL has developed three winning proposals for grants from ExxonMobil/Liberia. With those funds, the team implemented four training events in Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa counties, reaching 78 women from 30 organizations who hold senior management positions.

Moving forward, WEIL plans to develop a five-year strategic plan, expand project activities into other countries, submit more grant proposals, strengthen collaboration with partners, and conduct research on girls’ and women’s issues.

Eleanor Womba, one of the founders of WEIL, believes that the skills acquired through GWIM training provided her with “better insight into our participants, so we have been able to get to know them and how to adequately prepare for their needs.” She found the collaboration, training, and networking provided through GWIM as most influential for her work, as they provided the opportunity to meet other women interested in her field and the connections to receive grant money to implement their ideas.

Eleanor and the other women of WEIL believe in the power of “designing programs and policies that involve building women’s social, economic, political, and personal assets to strengthen their ability to freely make choices,” as this freedom is imperative in developing belief in one’s self-worth. Their work aims to provide other women with the self-efficacy that they learned to harness through GWIM.


Martina was sitting in the GWIM 63 workshop in Colombia when the idea of Mujeres en Acción struck. It was the second week of the program and the trainers were taking the group of 26 women leaders through the CANVAS model, a unique approach to business planning. Rather than focus on the creation of individual organizations, participants decided to apply the CANVAS business model to a new joint project.

GWIM 63 participants committed to “create an international volunteer network whose mission is to strengthen the institutional capacities of civil society organizations, enabling them to achieve greater sustainability and efficiency in management.”

The new network would enable the women to stay connected after GWIM and utilize each participant’s unique background to better the initiative and, by doing so, improve the capacity of local organizations in their respective countries.

The first Mujeres en Acción project was launched in October 2016, in Mexico. The goal was to empower HUNAB (an environment-focused organization in the Yucatán peninsula) to improve the management of the organization and step down business planning training to HUNAB beneficiaries. Over a period of eight months, members of the network worked to raise funds to support the team’s travel to Mexico, designed the intervention, and organized a variety of committees to be responsible for specific tasks. With a small grant from Plan, support from a crowdfunding initiative, and funding from their own organizations, the alumni set out for Mexico. The first activity they implemented was a networking event, convening 40 local organizations in the region to exchange experiences regarding gender, fundraising, communication, and advocacy. Building on that success, the network members, in partnership with HUNAB, conducted workshops in two Mayan communities to train HUNAB beneficiaries in the CANVAS model.

Long term, Mujeres en Acción intends to implement one joint project each year, beginning in 2017 in Peru with an adaptation of the Mexico project. In Peru, activities will focus on CANVAS, strategic planning and socio-economic forums—arising from a diagnosis from the beneficiary organization.

Martina and the other women are planning to expand to a new country every year: Guatemala in 2018, Brazil in 2019, Argentina in 2020, and Colombia in 2021.

While each woman in Mujeres en Acción brings individual expertise, GWIM provided a connection that established mutual understandings to supplement their individual strengths. Martina found that GWIM strengthened her situational leadership skills and provided the training, coaching and financial support necessary to organize and launch the Mujeres en Acción idea.

“Without the training and grant from Plan, we probably wouldn't be able to carry out this initiative. Also, Coralie (a GWIM alumni coach) really motivated us to continue to develop Mujeres en Acción. In the hard moments when we wanted to desist, she believed in us and reminded us of the value of what we were doing.”

This kind of peer support is emblematic of why Martina believes in the value of investing in women.

“A woman has the capacity to multiply what she learns and achieves, extending these benefits to those around her,” she said.

“Participating in GWIM empowered us to believe that together, we could carry successfully out this initiative—regardless of borders. We are highly motivated and feel as though we really can change the world, thanks to the trust Plan put in us.”

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