Talking Gender

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A blog about gender, culture and organizational change


By Gender at Work Media / August 7, 2015 / Loading Disqus...

What happens when a friend is accused of sexual harassment in the workplace? Watch Kalyani Menon-Sen, an activist based in India and a Gender at Work associate, tell this powerful story.

 

Related blog post:

Nine women’s rights activists enthralled the audience packing the Netherlands Permanent Mission to the UN on the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. They performed passionate stories about personal and professional struggles with discrimination, violence and the power dynamics at play. Read more here.


By Gender at Work Media / March 30, 2015 / Loading Disqus...

By Ireen Dubel

Changing the World One Story at a Time

Eight-year-old Maria Elena del Valle went on a red string strike. She was angry about having to do all the household chores while her older brother got away with leaving their home a mess every day. She proposed to divide in two every space she shared with him, including the toilet seat, with a red string down the middle for two weeks - half for her and half for her brother. She wanted to show her mother physical evidence that her brother was the one dirtying their home. Did Maria know that she would eventually become a passionate activist promoting decent work and pay for women workers in the informal economy of the Bronx, New York?

Nine women’s rights activists enthralled the audience packing the Netherlands Permanent Mission to the UN on the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. They performed passionate stories about personal and professional struggles with discrimination, violence and the power dynamics at play.

The activists, eight women and one man from Ecuador, India, Jordan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, South Africa and the US, are part of an exciting new initiative launched at the CSW March 2015 by Gender at Work and TMI Projectwith support fromHivos, that brings untold stories into public spaces. The collaborative storytelling laboratory is a way of catalysing analysis, learning and greater collective action. The intense pressure cooker methodology of TMI Project helps participants in only a few days to write, tell and perform compelling stories of personal, real life journeys.

Momal Mushtaq from Pakistan narrated her flashbacks while walking through metres of snow from downtown Manhattan to UN headquarters. She told about the origins of the dream that she has been able to realise now, at the age of 25, theFreedomtraveller initiative, fighting barriers to women’s mobility. As a girl she was only allowed to ride a bicycle indoors while her brothers ventured into the streets of Karachi. During her studies abroad, she used the bicycle as a means of transport, and just for fun, cycled from Germany to the Netherlands and Belgium. That inspired her to set up the #Iamfree campaign.

Douglas Mendoza Urrutia from Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua narrated how he grew up amidst violence, with a father who committed suicide when Douglas was still a young boy. Fatherhood was not his destiny until he was drawn into the work of Puntos de Encuentro as a young adult. He now coordinates the masculinity programme and is a proud and caring father of two boys.

These compassionate stories contain compelling, qualitative evidence of the long and winding journey of social change required for gender justice on the ground. At the closing of the event, Hivos’ Senior Women’s Rights Advisor, Ireen Dubel, cautioned the audience not to ignore the value of these stories: “This kind of evidence is often passed by in the prevailing log frames of results-based management and evidence-based reporting requirements of the development donor community.”

Momal Mushtaq, Douglas Mendoza Urrutia and Maria Elena del Valle:

First published at Hivos.org


By Gender at Work Media / September 30, 2014 / Loading Disqus...

We had a great time at The TMI Project workshop last month. Here's one of the moments!

 


By Gender at Work Media / September 16, 2014 / Loading Disqus...

By Ireen Dubel 

Twelve feminists from all over the world meet in upstate New York, September 2014. They meet to pilot the methodology of The TMI Project for Gender at Work. They have come to dig up stories for knowledge building about their work experiences as gender experts, feminists working in development agencies in various parts of the world. What they know upon arrival is that they are expected to write. They have come to write stories about their role as intermediaries between the agendas of their organizations and their personal drives to contribute to improve the lives of marginalized women through empowerment and tackling of persistent gender inequalities. Each of them only knows a few of the fellow participants. The majority does not know what they are actually in for. 

Day one, the magic happens. Trust and confidentially are guiding principles, without having to be formally agreed upon. Facilitation is of course key. Three women, who have gone through the same TMI Project methodology, share their stories during the opening session of the workshop. They tell deep stories about their personal experiences of discrimination and marginalization, not as victims, no, as women—who and where they are, now and where they want to go to. The three-day meeting turns out to be a most creative, exciting, inspiring, reflective encounter. 

The methodology of the TMI Project is rigid. After the opening session and expectation sharing, writing, pen on paper without lifting it—no laptops or iPads—is driving the process. Stories are shared, told, enriched over the days. The end result is amazing. Twelve authentic, compelling stories about the politics of being feminist change agents and working in a variety of organisations and bureaucracies, are staged, performed. Laughter and tears fill the room. Each participant is empowered in her own personal way. Some achieve major leaps from misery, pain and the sense of being stuck. Others share experiences never told, experience the liberation of shedding and the affirmation of deeply personal experiences of pain, sorrow and loss. Competition and hierarchy are absent. Each story is validated as the personal expression and experience of deep gender inequality issues that are on the agenda, both in the work and personal domains of the participants. The stories are publishable. The methodology can be used to produce stories for gender training modules, for evidence reporting to back donors, for fundraising in the gender & development and business worlds. The methodology enables knowledge development and sharing about the deep individual, organisational and institutional dimensions of change that Gender at Work wishes to generate. This methodology deserves replication, multiplication, through training of trainers, through wider exposure, through in-house donor familiarization and many more ways. It has the potential to recognize, validate and affirm. The revelation of one of my fellow participants: “I am stepping into my power.” 

Ireen Dubel is Senior Advisor on Women's Rights at the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos). She was a participant at a recent workshop organized by The TMI Project (an upstate New York-based organization that aims to “change the world, one story at a time”), and Gender at Work. The workshop took place over three days in September and invited feminists who have worked at the front line of confronting gender discrimination.


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