1. I have been really overwhelmed by all the responses to my last blog – on this site and in my personal email. My hope for my last blog was to begin raising awareness of this issue, and I have been amazed at the response and ideas that have begun to flow in. The next step is to figure out which organizations are equipped to begin addressing this problem and approach them. To this end, I’ll be working closely with the staff at The Advocacy Project who will use the contacts and resources they have to taking the lead, and I will be supporting them with local information.
2. A lot of people asked why there were no women in this meeting. I think there are 3 potential (and very general) reasons for this. First, from what I have experienced, women are certainly involved in NGO work, but mainly they seem to be hired on for specific projects as opposed to being on the permanent staff of a given NGO. Thus, they certainly are the ones working in the communities with women, but are less involved at the “policy” level, and consequently would not be as involved in meetings of this sort.
A second underlying possibility may lie in the educational discrepancies that lie between men and women. This leads to men be better qualified and subsequently have more prominent positions (and I suspect a greater sense of themselves – though this is just a newly forming and unsubstantiated hypothesis). This also results in women generally speaking much less English than men (who, outside of Kathmandu, often don’t speak much). This lack of English not only saddens me on a daily basis because it prevents me from communicating with women, but again places obstacles to their participation in such a meeting.
The third possible explanation may be that women simply participate in public life less than men. They may not have the time or the interest to be involved, or it may not occur to them that they have something valuable to contribute. Thus, this meeting may be no different from most others (and certainly not from most I’ve experienced).
There is wide acknowledgement among the men I’ve met that drastic change is needed with regard to the inclusion of women and there are regular and intentional efforts to involve women as much as possible (with obviously varying levels of success). Additionally, the current generations (at least among the people I’ve met, who are de-facto somewhat educated themselves) profess to value women’s education much more than previous generations and believe there will be a distinct change as these younger and educated women increasingly come of age.
The last issue to mention is the following. The men in the meeting strongly felt that this is not only an issue that should be addressed by women. They believe that to fully address this problem there is extensive social change needed – particularly regarding expectations of the work required of women. For better or worse, they believe that for such social change to happen, conversations between men, and conversations with men advocating for women are necessary. I have to agree, for a number of reasons, that this makes a lot of sense.
Posted By Nicole Farkouh
Posted Jul 28th, 2007