South Africa Training – parting thoughts

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.

South Africa Training – Week Three

South Africa Training – Week Three

My time here in South Africa is rapidly coming to an end, though my Ethiopian colleagues continue working with some spectacular individuals until September 6. I am struck by the courage and commitment with which these Ethiopian individuals have engaged in training for addressing gender equity. They have been given so much information yet want more. Their questions have been insightful showing a genuine desire to understand the issues and how to respond to the challenges that face them.  Their pride in their home country as well as their desire to improve the conditions for women in Ethiopia is admirable. Today, in one of our final sessions together, I focused on leadership, more importantly leadership capacity. Based on my own research, I approach leadership as a mindset or ontological stance. In short, my belief is that leadership is not about position or title but about how you situate yourself in the world, the actions you take and the communities you build. Conceptually I understand leadership well but in the context of life in Ethiopia, I have no experience from which to draw. One of my challenges in working with this group has been in understanding the world from which they come and must return to. How can I tell them what they should be doing iFikrte.I am a leadern a country I have little knowledge of? When preparing materials for our time together, I intentionally avoided telling them what to do or prescribing an unrealistic list of steps intended to result in sustainable change but more likely to end up figuratively collecting dust. Common sense, a reliable frieTigist.I am a leadernd of mine, wanted to privilege the participants’ knowledge and understanding of their communities, the people in those communities and the needs of those individuals to create bridges between what I know and understand with what they know and understand. Having briefly discussed some of the theory of leadership I asked the question, what makesSisay.I am a leader you a leader? This question intending to be a bridge. I expected them to recite some characteristics they had modelled but their reaction was far more hesitant. In fact, they physically withdrew from considering themselves leaders. These four amazing individuals who are repTadila.I am a leaderresenting their colleges, families and country needed to be coaxed to see themselves in ways that to me, so obviously shine. With some coaxing, they identified the characteristics they emulate as leaders and in doing so, I think began to see themselves as I do… as strong, insightful change-makers… as the leaders they unquestionably are. Lisa

South Africa Training – Week Two

South Africa Training – Week Two

IMG_0515 Building on the strong start facilitated by our South African colleagues, we set out to identify the problems and issues relating to gender in Ethiopian farming communities; the list was long but hopeful. We used a modified version of open space technology (For more information, see: http://www.openspaceworld.com/users_guide.htm ) to determine what we knew, needed to know and what we needed to do. The ideas brought forward by our ATTSVE participants Tadila, Fikrte, Tigist and Sisay provided valuable insight into the situation on the groIMG_0518und in Ethiopia and create the context from which we were able to make our next steps. After reviewing the terminology around gender, equity, equality and mainstreaming, we set forth walking our talk by engaging in a collective photovoice project focusing on creating awareness of gender inequalities particularly in the division of domestic labour. A highlight in week two was our inclusion in a symposium held at the Durban University of Technology focusing on gender based violence on higher education campuses.  We were welcomed along with students and staff from DUT, UKZN, a Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa and contributors to Agenda Feminist Media journal; obviouIMG_0520sly a prestigious group. Many individuals spoke about the issues of genderbased violence on campuses in South Africa and the challenges facing young women but none so powerfully as a panel of female students from DUT. The strength and courage behind their words were inspiring.

South Africa Training – Week One

South Africa Training – Week One

We came together from Ethiopia and Canada on August 11 with equal measure expectation and hope that our time in South Africa would be a rich learning experience focusing on gender and equity in the context of agriculture. Making the Centre of Visuimage4al Methodologies at the Edgewood Campus of University of KwaZulu-Natal our home away from home for the majority of our time in South Africa, we settled in. We have been supported by fantastic colleagues like Dr. Joyce Chitja from University of KwaZulu-Natal who worked with us on the relationship between gender and agriculture. We then moved over to the Durban University of Technology hosted by Dr. Crispin Hemson where Dr. Naydene de Laimage2nge from the Nelson Mandela Memorial University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth and Dr. Relebohile Moletsane from the University of KwaZulu-Natal dedicated themselves to a two day workshop on the use of participatory digital methods (photo voice and cellphilm). After four intense days of thought provoking discussion and participation, we set ourselves up to focus on gender, equity and leadership.