Counterpart helps women gain the confidence to lead change and motivate others to chart a better future.
In the mountainous Dashkasan district of rural Azerbaijan, old habits die hard. Many families follow patriarchal traditions and women aren’t always encouraged to speak up. But now things are changing.
Once shy and retiring, Aida Naghiyeva assumed she would be a farmer like her friends. She enrolled in agricultural school and found office work to support herself. Then, in June 2012, Aida began attending Counterpart International’s leadership trainings at the Ganja Regional Women’s Center.
“I’m an ordinary Dashkasan woman, so it never occurred to me to prove to others I could lead,” said Aida. “I didn’t consider what I could accomplish as a leader. I was afraid I’d be laughed at, but all the strong women at the trainings made me think, ‘Why shouldn’t I be a leader too?’”
Over the past two years, Counterpart has partnered with four women’s centers across Azerbaijan to build the confidence and communications skills of more than 5,000 women, helping them to express their ideas and identify ways to participate more fully in their communities.
“The trainings helped me realize my own talents,” said Aida. “I gained a confidence that helps me every day. Once I learned to believe in myself, I became more vocal and proactive. Now I don’t limit my goals.”
When Aida realized her own leadership potential, others did too. In December 2013, she was promoted and has since held two important government jobs, serving simultaneously as Deputy Director of the Dashkasan Executive Office and Director of the Department of Agriculture.
Now, she encourages other women to attend trainings to share their experiences and support each other to have the courage and confidence to step up and lead.
“It’s tough being a woman in Azerbaijan,” said Aida. “It doesn’t matter who you are, all women face discrimination. There aren’t many places women can go to develop their skills. The trainings bring us together to talk about our problems and find solutions. Now we know what we’re capable of.”
To date, more than 100 women’s leadership trainings have been organized by Counterpart’s Women’s Participation Program, to equip women in Azerbaijan to become stronger, more active members of their communities and government.  Together, women leaders like Aida can help achieve broad and lasting improvements in the lives of all Azerbaijani women.

Program: Counterpart’s Women’s Participation Program (WPP)
Funded By: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Global Civil Society Strengthening Leader with Associates (GCSS LWA)
Partner: Azerbaijan’s State Committee for Women, Family and Children’s Affairs; Ganja Regional Women’s Center
This story is a part of our #LeadMore series, a weekly story recognizing our local partners and community leaders.
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