Aka takes leadership reins in Papua New Guinea

Participants of the first OFC Capacity Building - Local MA Workshop in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
Participants of the first OFC Capacity Building - Local MA Workshop in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

When we introduced Pasifika Sister #2, Margaret Aka we shared some of the challenges she’s faced alongside some of the groundbreaking advances she’s helped to ensure for women involved in football in Papua New Guinea.

In her latest role as Papua New Guinea Football Association Women’s Football Development Officer, she’s taking her role as an agent of change a step further with the delivery of the first-ever OFC Women’s Football Capacity Building – Local MA Workshop.

As the course facilitator, Aka has built on what she learned during her training with OFC Women’s Development Officer, Emma Evans and Capability Group senior consultant, Annie Kennedy in 2020, applying local-context to the three-day workshop.

“I did a lot of research to prepare the content and to ensure the participants understand what the workshop is about,” Aka said.

“It’s focused on the participants; helping them to understand themselves, recognise their own strengths, their own leadership potential and to see their own potential.”

The workshop asks participants to delve into their own experiences and do a close examination of their strengths and weaknesses. While it’s delivered with an underlying football theme and within the football development environment, the workshop is closely focused on personal development across decision-making, project management, leadership and confidence building – all skills which are transferable to many areas of life.

Aka said the clearest cases of change she saw was in the form of a woman who runs an SME, which sponsors one of the Northern Conference Women’s National Soccer League sides.

“She runs a business and had heard about the workshop from someone who attended day one. She came for the second day and when participants were given the opportunity to ask questions she stood up and said: ‘I’ve been doing this, but I didn’t realise I could improve or have the potential to be this person, until today’.

“It helped me to realise that it wasn’t about football, it wasn’t about me, but it’s about them. It’s about the participants and connecting them to what they are doing.

The participants successfully designed and implemented a festival to showcase their newly-acquired skills.

“Some of them were so surprised by themselves and didn’t realise that they’re already doing so much of what we discussed, but weren’t making that connection to their own potential and leadership qualities.”

Aka said when she participated in her training her eyes were opened to her own potential, just as she’s been able to do with her participants.

“I didn’t realise that ‘me-time’ could be so important, but having made that connection I can now see that it’s quite essential. If they have ‘me-time’ they can reenergise, they will do things properly and help people better.

“By doing 10 different activities at once, they don’t realise they’re not putting 100 per cent into all of the activities. Decision making can be bad, your work might suffer and you might not have the energy where you need it.

“Being aware of that, and taking time for yourself when you need it is so important. You have to be a leader of yourself, before you can be a leader of others.”

Aka, like the participants, designed and presented her life wheel which is when it really hit her that she’s going to have to practice what she teaches.

“I realised that my life wheel, which shows all the aspects of your life which you put time or effort into, wasn’t actually balanced. So going through it and explaining it was a good learning process for everyone involved, including myself, because I need to learn to balance work and life much better.”

Another aspect of the delivery Aka felt was important to focus on was language.

While the presentation slides were in English, Aka felt it was important to deliver it in Pidgin.

“All the presentation was done in Pidgin and I guess that’s what fellow islanders can do in their own MAs, present in their local language which is more understandable for them,” she said.

“It can be easier for us to present in our own local language, and easier for the participants to get a real understanding of the content too.”

The first edition of the Local MA Workshop was held in Lae, with plans already afoot for further events in other Papua New Guinea regions.

“I’ve planned for four in total, so there’s three more to do. But I hope to get approval for a few more because the calls are coming in,” she enthused.

“That’s basically from the participants themselves talking about it and that’s attracted interest and attention from other centres.”

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