I’m going to do a post about what I actually do for a living; BUT this isn’t that post. In the broadest sense I work in the field of international development. I have had the pleasure of traveling and working in many diverse developing countries, though the past decade has largely been Africa.
My friends and colleagues that I’ve worked closely with know that I often jokingly say that “I don’t really care about women and children.” The development community over the period of my professional career has correctly focused increasing resources and rhetoric towards empowering women in the varied facets of their lives – including governance, economics and livelihoods, health, education, and sanitation. My joking (read: inappropriate sarcasm) comments about comes from my experiences with many misguided programs or ‘gender specialists’ that have forgotten that there are actually two genders. Specialized professionals with deep expertise in understanding gender dynamics and implications for development, and whom I respect greatly, agree that a nuanced understanding of the gender context with complimentary interventions for the diverse individuals within a community, agricultural value chain, or whatever target underprivileged population are necessary for successful outcomes.
This is probably all ‘development insider speak’ for people not in development – but this is all to say that while I can be a bit negative and sarcastic about ‘gender in development’ because of all of the abuses I’ve seen perpetrated in the guise of empowerment . . . I actually do subscribe to the need to really analyze and understand the social dynamics and cultural context for development programs to deliver on their objectives – everyone, regardless of gender, should have the right to improve their standard of living and opportunities . . .sort of my free market/libertarian tendencies!
So – I’m looking forward to watching the upcoming PBS special – Half the Sky. It is a four hour program premiering October 1 & 2. From the website:
Filmed in 10 countries, the series follows Nicholas Kristof and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls.
I’m hoping that the film also recognizes and celebrates the role men have to play in empowering women (and women’s role as societal partners with the other gender.) I do know good work is happening and will try to be slightly less sarcastic about gender in the future . . . (okay, that might be a stretch!)