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Harnessing Wisdom: CEDPA’s Alumni Coaching Program


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Jan. 26, 2007—Many successful leaders attribute part of their success to the ability to call on someone more experienced for advice and guidance.

But finding a mentor is difficult for many women worldwide because they are still underrepresented in leadership positions. Today, women make up only 21 percent of the world’s managers, 17 percent of parliamentarians and only one percent of Fortune 500 chief executives.

Women who succeed in surpassing obstacles to their leadership are often the first woman to hold a senior position, lacking role models to provide advice and guidance as they move through their careers.

To break down these barriers, CEDPA launched a new coaching program that strengthens the personal and professional development of emerging women leaders from developing countries.

CEDPA has held high quality and participatory training workshops for over 30 years to build confidence among women to lead, direct successful organizations, and build community support for improving the lives of women and girls.

The new coaching program matches recent graduates of CEDPA’s training workshops with CEDPA alumni from a pool of over 5,000 alumni in over 150 countries worldwide.

Lucy Owusu Darko, CEDPA coach from Ghana
Lucy Owusu-Darko, alumna from Ghana, shares her wisdom through the CEDPA coaching program.
These senior CEDPA alumni are at the forefront of change in communities throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Many have gone on to advanced positions, serving as parliamentarians, ministers, non-profit executives and community leaders.

Beginning in 2005, CEDPA’s newest workshop graduates have been matched with senior alumni from their countries or regions for a guided, one-year coaching program. The coaches encourage their clients to apply the knowledge learned in training to their real life situations. Coaches also respond to ongoing questions and concerns related to professional and personal development.

The coaching program has had positive results from the first group of participants, which include 12 coaches and 25 advisees from countries including Azerbaijan, China, Hondorus, Kenya and Indonesia.

The majority of the coaching pairs have kept in touch regularly. The relationships ranged from occasional requests for advice to deal with a professional problem, to strong bonds that have emerged as coaches have become part of an advisee’s ongoing support system.

Coaches have also worked with their advisees to enhance technical and decision making skills, share best practices, leverage resources, and identify international, regional and national opportunities for collaboration.

Coach Lucy Owusu-Darko is an example of the program’s early successes. Lucy, an alumna from the 2003 Women in Management program, leads a youth foundation in Ghana. Lucy initiated contact with one of her advisees shortly after that person completed training.

Facing some challenges at work, Lucy’s advisee confided in her about ongoing personnel challenges involving her work team. Lucy encouraged her client to “turn the challenge into one of her greatest achievements” and strengthen the skills of her team. By asking pertinent questions, Lucy guided her advisee to identify specific action steps toward improvement.

Maria Elena Chapa, CEDPA coach from Mexico

Coach Maria Elena Chapa from Mexico.

Maria Elena Chapa from Mexico is another CEDPA alumni who agreed to become a coach. She found that her client needed support and advice to improve management skills. They discussed time management, taking on leadership in the workplace, and helping other staff to grow in the process.

Because of encouraging stories like these, CEDPA’s future trainings will continue to embrace and apply the new coaching model.

With new skills and strategies, the coaching program will allow emerging women leaders to overcome barriers and maximize opportunities—not only for their own professional careers, but also for women and children in communities where they live and work.

To learn more about CEDPA’s approach to advancing women’s leadership, please visit our training page.