The Value of Centering the Lived Experience of Women in Decision-Making as learnt through our Board Shadowing Programme

In every society, the experiences of women are as diverse as they are profound. Yet, too often, these experiences are sidelined or overlooked in decision-making processes, leading to policies and actions that fail to address the complex realities faced by women.

The notion of lived experience encompasses the powerful combination of challenges, triumphs, and nuances that shape an individual’s existence. For women, this includes navigating systemic barriers, confronting gender-based violence, balancing work and family responsibilities, and contending with societal expectations and stereotypes. By placing the lived experiences of women at the forefront of decision-making, decision makers  at any level gain invaluable insights into the real-world implications of their choices.

This is why we introduced the Smallwood Board Shadowing Programme, in 2020.

One of the primary reasons for centering lived experiences of women is the inherent diversity within their narratives. Women come from different cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, ages, abilities, and identities, each with their own set of experiences and perspectives. Embracing this diversity has helped us craft policies and grant funds that are inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the needs of all women. 

Moreover, centering lived experiences of women fosters empathy and understanding, essential components of effective decision-making and have helped us to gain insights that we would otherwise not have access to at a strategic level. Engaging directly with women and listening to their stories has helped us  develop a deeper appreciation for the challenges they face and the solutions they envision. This empathy enables the creation of grant funds that are not only well-intentioned but also practical and effective in improving the lives of women.

You can follow our journey with the board shadowing programme here: 

Meet the inaugural cohort of the programme:

Meet the second cohort here: 

Meet our third and current cohort here: 

Reviews and learning from the programme: 

Evaluating the Board Shadowing Programme:

Centre for Charity Effectiveness selects shadowing programme as case study: 

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