South Africa Training – Parting Thoughts

As I depart, I am equal measure looking forward to my Canadian home and somewhat sad to be leaving my South African home away from home of the past 3 weeks. The experience been rich with insight, challenging in tackling issues of gender equity but most of all, infinitely rewarding. A special thank you to Lebo Moletsane from UKZN for being our host over the past few weeks, letting us take over the Centre for Visual Methodologies. Lebo did more that give up space, she set a strong tone right from day one by showing us how participatory visual methods can help us address gender equity. More importantly Lebo is an incredible role model of feminist scholarship, strength of character and humility. What a privilege it has been working with her. Also, three colleagues at McGill University in Montreal have been invaluable in making this journey a reality. Michelle Harazny, Jessica Prioletta and Claudia Mitchell have been working tirelessly to prepare, communicate, plan and coordinate from thousands of miles away. While I may have been the face, they are the heart and soul. I also want to acknowledge each of the Ethiopian participants: Tadila, Tigist, Fikrte, and Sisay. These individuals are committed to creating a more gender equitable culture in Ethiopia by raising awareness with their students, colleagues, extension workers, farmers and governance. By engaging these different stakeholders, they are able to maximize the impact on the one group most in need, female farmers in Ethiopia. Tadila, Tigist, Fikrte, and Sisay understand deeply the challenges they face. Our Ethiopian colleagues return to a strongly patriarchal society that cannot change overnight but that can change. The messages that they bring back to Ethiopia will create a ripple that I believe will gain momentum because they have identified strategies like photo voice and cellphilms that will engage others in ways that are difficult to ignore. While it has been hard work these past few weeks and the learning curve great, it has been very good work. Finally as I sit at the Durban airport reflecting on the many highlights of my time here, I am reminded of just how important this work is. Like many others, I read the recent news piece that has been circulating the globe about the 2 young women in rural India who were sentenced to be raped as punishment for the perceived indiscretion of their brother. What a powerful reminder of how important working towards gender equity is and how much work is yet to be done across the globe. As we spoke throughout the week, the common thread that I come back to is ownership. Too often people point towards the inadequacy of laws or the faults of others. Even though these faults and inadequacies may very well be true, my hope, and the challenge I pose for each one of us, is to ask what can you do right now to make gender equity a greater reality? For some, their actions will be subtle while for others, their actions will be loud, visible and undeniably. But the key is the action each takes ownership for and follows through on that will contribute to the world becoming a more equitable place. I for one think these last three weeks are a great start.