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When I was the only man in a gender discussion…

This week I am in Mexico City, Mexico. I am attending a learning exchange meeting between organisations from Mexico, Senegal, Kenya and a few international organisations that work globally like Publish What You Pay (UK, Global), Oxfam West Africa and Article 19. During our time here, we are considering our experiences and lessons learnt in the linkage between Gender and Transparency, Participation and Accountability in civil society work. 

A couple of thoughts and observations that occur to me that I thought I should share, shot-gun style (This is not a fully developed thought so bear with me):

  1. I am the only man at this meeting. Except for a gentleman who was part of the rapporteur team. This led me to think about how gender has become synonymous with women. In practice, this means that in most organisations, the programme manager in charge of gender related work in most organisation tends to be a woman. I have never seen a gender officer who was a man. It reminds me of the number of board and community meetings that I have attended where “serious issues” like money, security, business, etc are discussed by the men in the room and then last on the agenda, is “soft issues” like welfare, food etc which are left to the women to discuss. Being the only man in the room makes me think about how our practices reinforce our perceptions and practices.
  2. In the context of civil society work, “gender” seems to be interchangeable with “women”. I asked the question in the room when organisations were defining themselves, how they define gender work – is it dealing with women affairs e.g Maternal Healthcare etc, or is it that there is equal representations or encouragement of activities by both men and women in their work?
  3. I wonder what would need to be done to have more men work on and fight for women rights. I wonder also, what the best environment that could be fostered by organisations to strengthen the participation of men in fighting for women’s rights.

 

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I am first an foremost a writer who cares deeply about the world. I enjoy stories - especially history for its rich tapestry of stories of people's lives interwoven intricately in failures and victories. I care so deeply about the world that I also spend much of my time and energy trying to make it better in some way.


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