I didn’t do as much training in far-away exotic (sounding) countries in 2013 as in previous years, but in February I went to Bangladesh for two weeks for Free Press Unlimited. It was my first time in Bangladesh, the first time I had to postpone a trip at the last minute because of the potentially dangerous situation on the streets of Dhaka – and the first time I trained a group of just women.
I spent a week with 11 women journalists – one of them had to sit in a bus for 11 hours just to get to the training. We were locked away from the unpredictable and sometimes violent demonstrations on the streets of nearby Dhaka in a residential conference centre near Savar. Like many people outside Bangladesh, I had never heard of Savar, but just a few weeks later it hit the world’s headlines when a clothing factory in the town collapsed killing over 1,100 people.
I didn’t ever get to see Savar in the two weeks I was at the conference centre. All I saw was the view from my balcony where I spent an hour or so at the end of every day looking out at what a big expanse of sand-coloured scrubland. It took me a day or two before I even spotted the windowless corrugated green sheds dotted across the landscape and a few more days and a lot of questions (that journalistic instinct never dies) before I realised that these were actually factories.
Far away from all distractions – the local NGOs organised the training perfectly at this purpose-built conference centre near Savar, just outside of Dhaka.
But what I missed out on in terms of sightseeing was more than made up for by the wonderful warm-hearted friendliness and enthusiasm of the course participants. Not only the women journalists on the ‘training the trainers’ course, but also the participants of the other training I did there. This was for the staff (men and women) of two Bangladeshi NGOs that organise training for community radio and other local media. In the first week of my trip I worked with these NGOs to find ways in which they could make their training more effective.
Feedback on the training was very positive, the nicest compliment was from one of the women who attended both courses who said “the trainer inspired us and gave us confidence”. My two favourite words when it comes to training: inspiring and confidence.
Both groups of participants worked hard and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experiences with them both. But the most fun was had in the ‘girls only’ group. For a long time I thought that was because they were women.
But recently I had a group of trainees in Hilversum who were all men. Also for the first time. We did a five-day ‘training the trainers’ workshop very similar to that in Bangladesh. And guess what? It too was a real laugh.
By Abi Daruvalla