On a weekend in early December, 25 members of Azerbaijan’s Women’s Bar Association (WBA) gathered for two-and-a-half days of training on organizational development. The 250-member WBA was created in October 2007, with the advice and support of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. WBA members have attended trainings and workshops developed by ABA ROLI staff in Baku throughout 2008. To build upon those experiences and to help create a more functioning organizational structure, Muhaio Parpieva, an experienced institution building advisor for ABA ROLI in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, came to Baku to train the Women’s Bar Association on developing a sustainable organization.
In the first session, Muhaio grouped the participants into three groups to write a newspaper headline and paragraph about a major success that might occur three years in the future. On large pieces of paper, each group imagined what 250 women lawyers could do to develop their professional skills and to educate other women about their legal rights. One group’s headline read: “Women’s Bar Association of Azerbaijan Wins Nobel Prize.” In response, all 25 members cheered and clapped.
Throughout the training, WBA members worked both in groups and as a whole to make decisions about the future of the organization. By the end of day three, participants had drafted an action plan for the coming year. Short-term plans include:
- Developing organizational bylaws within five months.
- Formalizing duties for the general assembly, including the election of officers and voting on and approving bylaws.
- Creating four committees, including the already-finalized public relations committee, which will host an exhibition in March 2009 to introduce the WBA to those groups and individuals working to improve the lives of Azerbaijani women.
ABA ROLI’s rule of law staff attorney, Narmin Kerimbekova, and the rest of the ABA ROLI staff in Baku will continue to advise and to work with the association. ABA ROLI will give additional training and support to the first and only women’s bar association in Central Asia.