Debra Richards is the Director of Communications and Development at Cyfannol Women’s Aid. Cyfannol Women’s Aid is a charity based in South-East Wales, which specialises in supporting women and girls who have experienced any form of violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence. Their vision is that “Everyone is empowered to flourish in a life free from domestic abuse and sexual violence.

I absolutely loved it. It’s the best course I’ve ever done

Debra attended the in-person 3-day training in Cardiff in December 2023. She found out about the course through a recommendation from a colleague who had attended it previously. 

Debra enjoyed various aspects of the training: the delivery, the group and the content.

She describes how she enjoyed that the way the training was delivered. She enjoyed that it was clearly guided by the group’s needs and changed when needed to make sure the group got the best out of the experience, which she thought is very true to the feminist leadership ethos:

“I loved the delivery, you were very agile. There was a plan but you were very responsive to the needs of the group, which related to how we like to work and our values of being person-centred and needs-led”.

The fact that the training is so much about relationship building with the group was very powerful. She recalls being surprised by the level of interaction but that this was one of the aspects she enjoyed the most about the training.

“It felt really nice to get to know all of those people. We almost instinctively wanted to support each other. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it; it’s not often you get that opportunity”.

She explains how she really appreciated the diversity in the group in terms of backgrounds, experience and opinion. She said that having the opportunity to build the camaraderie around the table was very powerful and that she was genuinely moved by the people in the room. She felt that the level of group interaction and relationship building could have been made clearer in the promotional material about the training. The level of interaction is high and the training is at its best when participants bring their whole selves to the sessions, so it is good to make this clear even before the training starts. WRC will take this feedback on going forward.

In terms of the content, Debra stated that she thought it was really interesting. In particular, she spoke about the appreciation of going back to basics a bit and exploring the concept of feminism and its practical application and relation to organisational values. She stated that this does not typically get done as there is an assumption that everyone “gets it”, but that it was liberating to be able to talk about these principles.  She continues with stating how well done the course was in making the connection between theory and practice. Often, she said, courses are unclear when it comes to the practice and the practical implementation of the theory. This is not the case with the feminist leadership training programme however, which is very practice oriented.

“I’ve already started applying some of the learning. The course was practical in a way that helped me reflect but also to do.”

Debra described the impact the training has had on her leadership practice. One thing she has done is to introduce regular check-ins with the whole team, in which they talk about, for example, what they’re working on and whether they need help. This has been an opportunity to increase honesty and transparency within the team.

Personally, Debra described a situation in which she encouraged a friend to apply for a senior position. She recalls telling her friend what she considers the biggest take-away from the training; that leadership is not a jacket you put on.

“You don’t have to have this imaginary language or way of being because it doesn’t exist. Instead, you find it within you. You are doing it. it’s not about putting something else on, speaking in a certain way or behaving in a certain way – that’s all a myth. I realised this through the course and it was just massive.”

Thank you Debra for all your invaluable contributions to the Feminist Leadership Training Programme! We will hopefully see you at WRC’s Women’s Leadership Conference in June 2024.

Find out more about WRC's different Feminist Leadership Programmes:

3-day Feminist Leadership Training (the one Debra attended)

4-day Feminist Leadership Training

Bespoke Feminist Leadership Training