Women leadership in local government space

24 Mar 2021
24 Mar 2021

The Local Government Women Leadership Development Programme (LGWLDP), initiated by SALGA and delivered by University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance in partnership with Zenande Leadership, has successfully welcomed its first cohort. Seventy women leaders are embarking on an exciting journey of personal, interpersonal and professional growth as part of the programme. These women, who are expected to play key roles in responding to poverty, unemployment and inequality, often face a range of barriers to their own leadership, while navigating the turbulent and complex local government space.

The faces of the LGWLDP
The inaugural cohort of the LGWLDP comprises women leaders working in all dimensions of the local government sector, with most having more than ten years of experience. Yet, many have not had exposure to any formal leadership training, to equip them to meet the demands of their roles.
The timeliness of the LGWLDP is evinced by participants’ energy as they engage in the programme, the willingness to be vulnerable and share their rich experience, and the deep sense of appreciation for the skills, tools and knowledge shared through the programme. Despite the barrage of challenges learners face (illness, personal loss due to COVID-19, work demands, family demands, and so much more), they are present and meaningfully engaging in the programme. They have also been expected to adapt to the unexpected online learning environment, that brings with it unique challenges.  Week after week, these women leaders are demonstrating resilience, a hunger to learn and determination to thrive in their local government contexts.
The Programme:
The LGWLDP comprises three modules, with each module being delivered over a 10-week period.
The structure and content of the programme is designed to challenge women to take up the banner of Servant Leadership and Transformational Leadership that underpin the SALGA Leadership Framework.

The programme is fully online and delivered through five core modalities:  


  1. Accredited short course training: the LGSETA accredited skills programme comprises three modules. Each module aligns to a particular unit standard, which together make up the Local Government Women Leadership Development skills programme.  
  2. Personal coaching: participants have access to seven individual coaching sessions to support their personal learning journey. 
  3. Mentorship: participants are paired with a mentor throughout the programme and receive training in mentorship as a leadership development tool.
  4. Peer network support: the programme supports the development of a powerful and supportive peer network of women leaders in the local government sphere.
  5. Webinars: quarterly programme-tailored webinars to support participants’ learning journeys, and enables learning opportunities to be extended beyond the cohort of programme participants (each webinar will be able to host a maximum of 300 participants).
The focus of Module 1 has been on Emotional Intelligence and the Public Sector
Self-awareness is an important step to becoming a better leader, and the foundation upon which emotional intelligence is built. This module equipped participants to become more skilled at mastering self- and social awareness, enabling meaningful conversations and effective relationship building in the workplace. In addition to exploring how emotional intelligence guides thinking and behaviour, participants were introduced to various models and theories of leadership, self-management, and practical tools for wellbeing.
Participants were exposed to several guest speakers, including: Prof Jane Bennet, Ms Mabel Nederlof-Sithole and Dr Maria Phalime, who shared their personal experience of being women leaders in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous contexts.
Overview: Module 1

Participants have shared their excitement about being a part of this ground-breaking programme:
Everytime I attend these classes I always feel like I am going to a support group… where my personal emotional well-being, as well as professional growth, matters. I have reached levels of self-reflection and awareness that I have never explored before in my life and its exciting – I can feel that I am growing.”

The learning has been positive, insightful, and very impactful to my development as a leader.”

I've found the online classes and interaction sessions to be extremely useful in that I could draw from the various engagements and apply it to my work situation. The facilitators are well informed and [the material] is presented in a way that was easily understood. Being able to interact with my peers in a similar workspace was great.”
The team that makes it all work
Participants have been navigated through Module 1 by our anchor facilitator, Barbara Green-Thompson, together with our team of seasoned co-facilitators Fatima Essa and Bulelwa Rulashe; as well as a team of highly experienced and qualified mentors and coaches. Participants are also supported by the Mandela School team. Further to this, it is encouraging to see that a support network is beginning to emerge amongst learners themselves; many of whom who are in similar municipalities or districts.
Onwards and Upwards
The programme facilitators and instructors remain committed to ensuring that the LGWLDP provides participants with access to exceptional leadership training, professional development and personalised support, and promoting the establishment of a nurturing network of change catalysts from across the country.  
We look forward to Module 2 (Ethical Leadership and Innovative Practice in the Public Sector) and Module 3 (People Centred Leadership in the Public Sector) with great anticipation, as we continue to support local government women leaders on this voyage of personal and professional growth.