Teshainesh Hibtit from the Eritrean community is part of the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition and recently attended the national Living Wage Movement training: Building Power in Our Communities: A 5-day residential leadership course.
This programme will be run in Auckland and Wellington in August next year so if you are from a Member Group, think about registering your interest. This is what Teshainesh says: “I learnt how to plan, think and empower people; it was very wonderful; it was practical as well as theory; and I learnt more than I expected to.”
The training is based on the practice of Industrial Areas Foundation, regarded as doing the best grassroots organising in the United States and it provides a model that is unique to NZ. The training aims to build the capacity and imagination of the Movement’s leaders from the faith, union and community sectors so they can join together in common cause and influence the people who can make a difference in the issues that matter to them.
“People together are power, not individuals alone. If we share ideas and we start small, one by one, developing relationships with others, then with other groups, together we can have power and gain solutions,” said Teshainesh.
A key element of the training is learning about effective action and conducting a mock political candidates’ meeting in front of guests. In Auckland, the training was followed by a real action, the Peoples’ Assembly: An Election Special, designed to gain a commitment from candidates to a Living Wage at Auckland Council. Teshainesh and other members of her community attended. It was a successful action and there is now a majority of councillors in Auckland who support raising some of the lowest paid workers in the city out of poverty.
“It showed that “practice makes perfect” – “we had a plan, we practiced, then we got people along” to the event and it was successful.
The training aims to make community leaders more confident and able to contribute to their communities. It is about growing the individual as well as the power of our organisations but there is a message in this: “Looking after yourself is important if you are going to lead others – health, rest time, our own community – this is important if you are going to be a role model.”