By Sarah Byrne

PROVING popular with women in Papua New Guinea, the Business Coalition for Women (BCFW) has launched the second offering of its flagship business leadership course after the first of the four rollouts started in late May.

In early May, BCFW executive director Leonora Morgan told PNG Resources at that stage 90 per cent of the places on the May course had been filled and half of the spaces for the upcoming three cohorts had been filled.

Courses are scheduled for May, August and November this year, and another in March 2017, with each course offering 20 places.

Director of WINGS Education and lead facilitator of the Certificate IV Leadership Course, Karen Mitchell told PNG Resources she is excited by the success of the first cohort and believes the impact will be sustainable.

Ms Mitchell believed the input from the BCFW and the extra support the women receive with mentoring has been fundamental to the success of the leadership course.

Participants will be tracked by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for two years upon completing the course.

“That means they have a degree of accountability to keep on innovating and I have no doubt that they will. They will keep on changing and they will keep on growing which is very exciting,” she said.

IFC program assistant Lavui Bala said his observations of the participants in the early stages of the course gave him confidence that the course would be a success.

While initially the participants lacked confidence and were uncomfortable with sharing their thoughts in the group, Mr Bala said this started to change early in the course.

“I could see the participants getting more confident and being able to articulate their thoughts more clearly to the rest of the team.”

Developing the women’s soft skills is a key aspect of the program and of high importance, Mr Bala said.

“I think the course is addressing one of the major obstacles for a lot of these women, which is low self-esteem and low confidence, as well as giving them the tools to be able to understand themselves better in order to reach their full potential,” he said.

The participants’ access to women from the BCFW who shared their experiences with the group was another factor contributing to the success of the course, Mr Bala said.

“The training itself was developed by the membership, so it wasn’t just a cut and paste training program. We have drafted the curriculum with the help of the trainer, WINGS Education, and then members of the coalition where then able to narrow it down to the things they felt are most important for Papua New Guinean women.”

“It is tailored specifically for the needs of most Papua New Guinean women,” Mr Bala added.

BCFW’s leadership course is an Australian Certificate IV Course which does not require prerequisites for entry.

It consists of four core units with eight additional electives from a pool of 29.

Ms Morgan said the final eight electives selected for the leadership course, focus on the priority skills to meet the needs of business and empower women, and were based on the consensus reached at the BCFW Participatory Workshop in 2015.

Having evaluated the success and challenges of the first rollout, Ms Morgan said the second rollout has adopted a more business-friendly structure of the training schedule blocks.

“This was done to facilitate participation, especially for businesses not based in Port Moresby,” Ms Morgan added.

As a result of the success of the first cohort, Ms Morgan said the essence of the course will remain the same, but the BCFW will be scaling up monitoring and evaluation through the support of its technical partners, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, who will be rigorously monitoring and measuring impact.

“This involves structured feedback from participants and managers throughout the course as well as tracking over time to see how the participants progress and the type of impact that is has on the respective businesses with which they work,” she added.

IFC East Asia gender program manager Amy Luinstra also identified the lack of formal education prerequisites as one of the course’s success factors.

“This makes it open to anyone who has been identified as a strong performer. Furthermore, the course targets women who are supervisors or managers in their first management role.

This is a critical career turning point and so an excellent time for training that can help them succeed with their new challenges and take them to the next level,” she said,

“It also means that all participants are able to immediately apply their learning to work (and non-work) situations as they are participating in the course.”

“We have collected so many examples of this very thing – participants using their learning to apply to challenges and discovering solutions that they never would have come up with before, as well as the confidence to implement them,” Ms Luinstra added.