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Working Together—Networking Women 
in the Caucasus
An IDEE Program for Women Leaders
in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia
1999-2002
funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs 
   of the U.S. Department of State

 
   In 1999, the Institute for Democracy in Eastern  Europe launched an innovative program called Working Together — Networking Women in the Caucasus. The Networking Women program was designed in response to the needs of women NGO activists for greater cross-border networking and NGO development in an historically and ethnically divided region that often marginalized women civic leaders. 

  During the first two years of the program, IDEE worked with its three partner organizations — the Helsinki Citizens Assembly in Armenia, the D. Aliyeva Society for Defense of Women’s Rights in Azerbaijan, and the IDP Association of Women in Georgia, to carry out a broad range of leadership training, civic education, NGO development, and cross-border networking activities that involved more than 100 women from all three countries. Many participated in a major women’s leadership conference in Batumi, Georgia in July 2001. The program measurably enhanced the leadership and capacity of women leaders and their NGOs, advanced women's participation in public life, and created a strong regional network of women's organizations with valuable ties to NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as to IDEE's own Centers for Pluralism network. 

   The third year of Networking Women in the Caucasus continued to build on the program's earlier achievements by increasing the capabilities of regional NGOs and women NGO leaders in the NGO sector, and by promoting more effective cooperation across borders. Activities included in-country and cross-border forums led by experienced multinational training teams of NGO leaders, forums that focused on fostering greater citizen participation in community life and on conflict resolution and reconciliation. The program was a model for other initiatives (such as the Central Asia Women’s Networking program). It included:
 
Advanced Training of Trainers (ATOT) 
   IDEE organized a five-day workshop taught by a multinational group of experienced trainers. The ATOT focused on giving additional skills to the team of nine trainers (three from each country) who carried out three training workshops for NGO activists during the previous year. The workshop attempted to provide them with the basic capacity to train new, less experienced trainers, especially in ways of organizing and running Citizens’ Forums. A number of trainers were selected to assist in leading the subsequent Training of Trainers program. 

Training of Trainers (TOT) 
   As a follow-up to the ATOT, IDEE organized a five-day workshop for 27 new activists (nine from each country) on the facilitation skills for leading community forums as well as on basic training skills in their own communities and across borders. 

U.S.-based Study Tour on Conflict Resolution Techniques 
   Six women (two from each country) participated in an intensive two-week program entitled “Coalition-Building Through Conflict Resolution.” The Washington, D.C.-program consisted of one- and two-day workshops, one run by the United States Institute of Peace, meetings, and site visits to organizations working on similar issues in the context of inter-ethnic and cross-border coalition-building, as well as meetings with funding organizations working in the Caucasus. As a result of the study tour, USIP and IDEE collaborated on a series of Caucasus (and then Central Asia) on-site workshops.

Community and Cross-Border Forums 
   Working with IDEE, the regional NGO partners arranged a series of six community forums (two in each country) based on the American town hall meeting model but adapted to fit the needs of post-communist countries. Trainers from the TOT workshop organized and moderated the forums, which  involved community and NGO leaders together with local officials and experts in a dialogue on community needs.. Trainers facilitated public discussions on important issues affecting these communities and assisted community members in proposing solutions to these problems. Following the community forums, trainers organized three cross-border forums, which were similar in format but concentrated on issues requiring cross-border cooperation and coalition-building (refugee issues, e.g.). Participants in the U.S.-based program on conflict resolution took part in the cross-border community forums in order to apply the skills they developed in the U.S. 

NGO Newsletter 
   A quarterly NGO newsletter was launched to encourage broader cooperation among NGOs in the region and promote the systematic sharing of information. All previous participants in the program were invited to submit articles on their activities, allowing other NGOs to learn from their experiences and initiate similar programs in their own communities. The newsletter was distributed primarily by e-mail and posted in Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, and Russian on the internet, but copies for each country were also printed in the regional language and distributed to those without internet access. IDEE and its NGO partners selected an editorial board that will eventually serve as a permanent coordinating structure for networking women in the Caucasus. 
 
 
Armenian language
Azeri language
Georgian language
Russian language 

  While funding for the Women’s Networking in the Caucasus program was discontinued after three years, the participants in it have maintained the network, continuting to publish the NGO Newsletter, participate in cross-border programs, organize training for women NGO leaders, and carry out other initiatives.
 

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