On March 6, a group of Shearman & Sterling associates led a workshop at the United Nation’s 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Developed as part of the firm’s pro bono relationship with Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB), the presentation, “Rural Empowerment through Modern Consensus Building Strategies,” was attended by representatives from NGOs and other non-profits from around the world, including Somalia, Sudan, and Taiwan.
The group included Killam Alumnae, Joanna Si (2004-05), who worked with LWOB to adapt a training module aimed at teaching people, who work in rural areas, the methods necessary for effective negotiation and mediation. The training materials are based on the children’s book, Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type, about a group of farm animals that negotiate various demands with a farmer.
Joanna says that, “while it may have only taken me about 5 minutes to skim through the book thinking, cute children’s book, it quickly became apparent in the subsequent discussions with my colleagues at Shearman, and the Lawyer’s Without Borders team, that there was more complexity hidden in the catchy illustrations and fun storyline.” The story of the cows, ducks, hens and the farmer provided examples to discuss position and interest-based negotiations, leverage and coalition building, and the importance of neutrality in mediation. The workshop also included real-world examples of women who relied on such skills to make a difference. Joanna recalls that “one example that really sticks out is of the women in Eastern Nigeria whose coalition building efforts eventually resulted in effective legislation to protect widows against prior customary practices – practices that included forcing a widow to drink water from her husband’s corpse!”
The team also created a training manual to accompany the presentation including additional exercises and further details on the various skills involved in consensus building. ”We are working with LWOB on expanding the training manual to be provided to individuals in Cuba and the materials are currently being presented to test groups for feedback.”