Amman, Jordan – As women in Middle East and North Africa become more involved in the political process in their communities and run for elective office, learning important campaign skills is critical to their success. To support these efforts, the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) recently hosted a four-day workshop focused on debate tactics.
The workshop, held October 3-7 in Amman, Jordan, brought together women politicians, civil society members, students and professors to assist female political and civic leaders gain the confidence and skills in debating both female and male colleagues and opponents. Drawing on experiences from Canada, the Netherlands and other Middle East countries, participants shared case studies from their own countries, allowing for open discussion on the differences and similarities between established and new democracies, as well as the strengths and weakness in current political debate culture.
Joseph Denissen, an expert on debate tactics and communications skills from the Netherlands’ Eduardo Frei Foundation, focused on how to effectively structure a debate scenario, including how to identify an audience, how to respectfully rebut the arguments of opponents and the skills involved in active listening. He furthered his training with public speaking tips, in particular the importance of body language, tone and word choices.
William Stairs, a former director of communications for the Prime Minister of Canada, discussed the communication skills needed for strong debates, including how to maintain a message during a debate, driving an agenda or belief, articulating complicated ideas and how to act on attacks from an opponent.
Stephanie Rea, an AWLI communications consultant, led participants through exercises to help identify and work with different communication styles. These exercises helped participants recognize the importance of body language, image and how to interact with opponents.
In addition to the practical workshops and participant discussions, participants took part in a mock debate exercise where they were given an issue, prepared their own debate plans and debated one another. This hands-on activity gave the women practical experience in the challenges candidates face during an actual debate. Myriam Aucur, an AWLI board member from Lebanon, acted as the moderator of the mock debates, helping the women maintain professionalism and following the rules of a timed debate.
The workshop was funded by the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative.