(The Humanitarian Social Network)
For those of you who-- like me-- are concerned that "gender" in development has come to refer only to women, check out Global Dashboard's recent review of a new book entitled, "Men and Development: Politicising Masculinities." I will certainly be adding it to my list. Has anyone else gotten a chance to look at it yet?
I haven't seen it yet but I've worked with Partners for Prevention who are looking at masculinities in development particularly through the lens of gender-based violence.
That's great! Were you examining it in one particular geographic context or on a global scale? What are the main things you learned from the experience?
I attended a meeting at the London Tropical Institute while this book was being developed, and heard from the authors. Alan Greig in particular gave an interesting talk on the political weight of hegemonic masculinities in the US. I was attending this session since the 2011 Because I am a Girl Report was focusing on working with boys and men for gender equality (shameless self promotion: http://plan-international.org/girls/resources/what-about-boys-2011.php). Like you, we recognize that in many instances gender is synonymous with women or girls. when in fact gender is about the social construction of femininity and masculinity and speaks to the different value and roles society places on each sex.
We had some angry discussions with hard core feminists about the implications of such a report in terms of budget allocation. Though they recognized the need to work with boys, both in gender relational program settings as well as in gender targeted programs, they worried this would reduce the funds allocated for girl focused programs even more. And as we all know the pie is so very small to begin with.
however, personally I'm quite convinced that in many cases working with girls alone will either be ineffective, or add an additional burden to their already burdened lives (take care of the sick, the elderly, the young, do household chores, and in your spare time lift your community out of poverty...righhht)
Especially when it comes to violence, or forms of discrimination such as HTP's, there is no point in programming with girls alone. they are not cutting up their own vagina's. therefor working with power holders, including peers and leaders, is critical.
I was in Kenya last week visiting a 'safe space for girls' program in Kibera. I interviewed 7 girls who have been part of the program for a decade. they had gone though the training and have opened their own safe space groups where they teach reproductive health and life skills, and mentor other girls. four out of the seven girls got pregnant early. This was an unplanned (unwanted) pregnancy. When I asked how did this happen, they laughed ironically and asked if I wanted to know about the mechanics of what happens between a man and a woman in bed. and I said, but seriously, you know everything there is to know, you have a strong network of support for your decisions, you have complete access to contraceptives - what went wrong?
The answer was unsurprising. they couldn't negotiate with their boy friend's to use protection.
so we spent a decade working with girls, but we forgot who really makes the decisions in a relationship.
I'm still interested in exploring issues around masculinities and development - if you are - I can send you some more litrature, though the girls report is a good place to start!
Interesting story about the 'safe space for girls' project in Kibera. I had a similar experience with our WASH project here in Darfur, where the proposal initially said '2000 vulnerable women in IDP camps will be targeted through PHAST training'... I managed to convince our donors that this was not an inclusive approach and that it would only lead to men considering everything related to hygiene and sanitation to be 'women's issues' and not their concern.
Turned out that even a balanced discussion between men and women about sanitation options developed... was interesting to see. So there's no doubt that any approach targeting women needs to be an inclusive approach which considers existing power and decision making imbalances - although eventually the long term goal would be to change exactly that - "who really makes the decisions in a relationship"... woudn't it?
yes, i totally agree, the end goal is to change 'relations' between men and women, both on a personal level but more broadly in society as well. therefor gender relational programming is important. usually though, when a program is broadly aimed at a 'community' it ends up not reaching women, and certainly it never reaches girls. so something of a mix between working in larger groups and targeting marginalized groups is needed.
I wonder how your example in Darfur worked out? I can see the logic in working with both men and women. was the training done in seperate groups though? In my experience, unless working with young children, issues around WASH can sometimes be sensitive and require working with women alone (especially around menstruation issues).
Actually, we tried to mix the trainings and even discussion groups as much as possible. In some communities this apparently worked quite well, when I was there though you could see a split between male and female groups. As eventually the groups discuss with each other, I think it's not so much of a big issue.
With regard to menstruation, we had a seperate session only with women and only with our female trainers. While I'm generally careful about being too optimistic about programme impact the training seems to have fulfilled it's purpose up to now (in both male-female dialogue and in the WASH sense).
I witnessed some instances where men argued why it couldn't be done, one of the female groups offered a solution and eventually the whole community agreed that this was the way forward. Now, if that really holds and if it will be put in practice... AME will tell ;)
I love this example! I really worry that a lot of "gender" (ie girls) programming ends up just entrenching traditional divides (like sanitation as a woman's thing) and also really neglecting how gender roles also impact men.
I've been discussing this issue with a few fellow development students, if anyone wants to swing by and offer a real-world counterpoint to our academic speculations! http://devblog.mygisa.ch/2012/03/27/where-are-the-men-a-third-probl...
Could I get anyone interested in my campaign idea then?
I once read a great story about a girl who was advocating against Female FGM/cutting in Kenya - amongst other things. This young heroine of 17 was being put up for an award as she was recognised as such a dynamic and lively young advocate. And yet, when you read her story you realised that it was as much due to her supportive father, and encouraging family as due to her own charisma. Which is why I want to have a campaign that says "Behind every great women, is a supportive father!" Because in many many cultures the father who says, " I support my daughter to speak" and in the case of the young Kenyan lady he had received a lot of criticism of allowing his daughter to become 'unmarriageable' and 'unmanageable' and said that instead he was proud of his daughter. When money and power come from male authority figures, then women and girls will always struggle to be successful without their support. But that doesn't mean that the supportive father figures out there don't exist, in fact I suspect they exist much more often than we suspect, as do many female leaders!
Anyway, join my campaign, nominate your young female heroines!
""Behind every great woman, is a supportive father!". I like this very, very much.
Great discussion! So important to include the relational aspect when working on gender. I've just experienced in a girls-only programme that once girls are able to negotiate with their boyfriends, many, many times those who become highly influential in how they relate in the couple are the mothers in law! So the families are as important to consider as men. So I really like the idea of Lady Amelia Emerson II on considering the role of families in the girls empowerment process.
There is something about all the post-identity politics (largely between 1998 and 2003) that makes me wonder if some of the ephemeral use of the word "gender" came from a place of really trying to be inclusive, and instead came out sort of murky and under a bigger umbrella than some folks were comfortable with (and the same issues seem to be coming out in this discussion - of similar substance, albeit in different times and different arenas)
There might be some useful organizational learning here for folks who are interested in gender-based aid work.