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By: Losira Nasirumbi Sanya, GREAT Fellow & Trainer


My journey with the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) Project has been full of surprises and beautiful moments.
It all started in 2016, when I joined the GREAT Theme 1 course that brought together biophysical and social scientists focusing on Gender-responsive Root Tuber and Banana (RTB) Breeding. I was very enthusiastic to learn how to transform current practices in the way we do our gender work for more equitable outcomes. I looked at my selection to participate in the GREAT training as a golden chance that I really had to pursue with a passion to see myself a better person aiming for transformed agricultural research systems. Supported by the trainers and our team case study’s Field Trainer/mentor, Sarah Mayanja from the International Potato Centre (CIP), I devoted my time as a course participant to learn while paying attention to every detail. Little did I know this was the beginning of a great future ahead of me! In 2017, I was selected to join the GREAT Theme 2 Course as a GREAT Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) Gender Specialist for the project (currently referred to as a GREAT Gender Fellow – GGF). Together with my co-appointed GGF, Dr. Lilian Nkengla, we took lead roles of rapporteuring and co-leading assigned sessions. I embraced this assignment as an opportunity for me to further learn and enhance my capacity in gender-responsive research (GRR). Luck was on my side, as I was again selected as a field trainer for the GREAT Theme 3 course which really opened space for me to mentor and support the participant teams, a role that I continue with to-date.

On the 25th of May 2019, I received an invitation to co-lead a session on gender-responsive Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) for the upcoming GREAT Theme 4 Course on Gender-responsive Plant breeding, and notification that GREAT had appointed me to join the training team. It was such a blessing since from the first day I joined the GREAT training, I gained keen interest in gender and agriculture and looked at myself nurturing and pursuing a career in this field. This compelled me to apply and undertake a Professional Development Programme for Gender Trainers (PDPGT) offered by KIT and the UN Women Training Center, which I successful completed. Therefore, the endorsement to join the GREAT training team was very timely, but being the introvert that I am, I took off a few hours of pondering and later told myself, “Losira go for it, you can be who you desire to be with focus!” I also saw this as an opportunity to apply the recently acquired knowledge and skills from the PDPGT course. So I accepted the offer, although with questions still lingering in my thoughts of how to deal with the high level of experts that form the GREAT trainers’ team.

It was not long when GREAT organized a “Training and Teambuilding Retreat” for the GREAT Project Management Team (PMT) at Makerere University, at a perfectly and specially selected beautiful venue – Malakai Ecolodge, for which I was part. The learning environment (Photo 1) for this retreat which took place 17th – 18th of June 2019 was perfect to help the GREAT training team to reflect on the past years and envision the future while identifying key strategizes for effective design and delivery of training sessions and programmes.

beautiful outdoor classroom

Photo 1: The training and team building venue (photo credit: Elizabeth Asiimwe)

As the sessions started, I realized that as a trainer, you need to develop good facilitation skills in order to meet the learning needs of different categorizes of learners – the imaginative, analytical, common sense, and dynamic learners. Thanks to our celebrated facilitators Drs. Maria Nassuna-Musoke and Richard Miiro (both from Makerere University, GREAT and AWARD trainers) for the excellent sessions and leading by example.

participants dining

Photo 2: The GREAT Trainers @Makerere dine (photo credit: hotel staff)

My key takeaway message was that as a trainer, I need to unlearn to learn in the process of designing and delivering a training session which eventually leads to action and benefits the learners. I have to balance the content and skills to have an impactful design and deliver a training that meets the needs of the different learners thus improve learning processes. However, to achieve tangible learning outcomes as a collective goal for all the trainers, there is need to work as a team. This requires us as trainers to be mindful of our own personalities and embrace diversity within the team.

friends posing for photo

Photo 3: Sharing a moment with Prof. Grace Bantebya (photo credit: Elizabeth Asiimwe)

The Four-Bird Personality Test (Dove, Owl, Peacock and Eagle – D.O.P.E.) was spot-on to help the GREAT training team identify their own personalities and how to effectively deal with each other in teams. Therefore, recognizing and appreciating the fact that each person has strong and weak attributes is critical to building an effective team. As a team member, one has to always aim to be highly flexible, very accommodative, able to support others, cohesive, appreciate diversity, well integrated and very industrious towards a common goal for a highly performing and successful team to exist (Photo 4). This requires shared values, openness, positive attitude, and supportiveness among the members as well as very strong leadership to coordinate the team. As GREAT Trainers, we strive for all these and much more being a team of highly competent professional in the region and beyond.

participants holding hands in a circle or a team building exercise

Photo 4: GREAT training team @Makerere (photo credit: Elizabeth Asiimwe)

These new learnings would have been impossible without the GREAT project that is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and resulted from the efforts of our GREAT Co-Principal Investigators, Dr. Hale Ann Tufan and Associate Prof. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni. The GREAT PMT and particularly, the GREAT PMT @Makerere are greatly acknowledged for organizing such a refreshing event for the GREAT training team at Makerere (photo 5).

Participants smile for photo

Photo 5: GREAT trainers share a light moment posing for a picture (photo credit: Malakai staff)


About the Author:
Losira Nasirumbi Sanya, from Uganda, is a GREAT RTB Fellow, Trainer and former leader of the GREAT Community of Practice (CoP) Advisory Board (2017 – 2019). She recently attained her PhD in Agricultural and Rural Innovation. Losira has worked with the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) since 2007 in various capacities. She believes that gender-transformative processes in agricultural research and development can lead to gender equality and a better world for all.