Finding Balance

finding_balance

(Haiti, photo credit: Guido Corno, UN)

We can all moan and groan about the experience of women in the field and even within our own offices, but what are we each doing to reverse these trends? What are YOU doing to reverse these trends?

Take action in your personal life:

  • Notice the words you use to describe people according to their gender - including terms (e.g. female anatomy) that are meant to humiliate or to make someone feel weak.
  • Notice the assumptions that arise in your own head, when you learn that a woman was sexually assaulted or harassed. Do you assume the woman provoked the man, or that she is making up her story?
  • Pay extra attention to how you speak to and treat the women and girls in your life - your mother, sister, daughter, partner, friend, colleague, domestic help, and strangers in the street. Whether you happen to be a woman or a man, do you notice a hierarchy? Do you allow yourself to be a part of it? Do you condone it?
  • Notice the role of women and men in media - in magazines and newspapers, on the television or computer, on billboards, etc. How do these advertisements make you feel? What does it say about our societies?

Take action in your workplace:

  • Look around your office. Is there a difference in the kinds of roles women assume versus the roles men assume? Are women treated differently from men? Are international women treated differently from national women?
  • Think about the highest position within your office. Who holds this position? Is it a man? A woman? If it's a man, has it always been a man or have there also been women in this position?
  • If you have a security section within your office, notice how many female staff work in the section. Review security protocols. Notice how cases of SGBV are handled. Is there equality in how cases involving SGBV are handled? Are women supported in the aftermath and long-term of SGBV-related incidents? Are women encouraged to join the security section as staff?
  • Think about the policies within your office that seek to be "gender-sensitive". Are they helpful to women and men? Have they gone too far? Do they encourage women and men to work hard to become office managers and leaders? Or, do you think staff members are sometimes offered positions BECAUSE of their sex and not because of their background, experience and qualifications?
  • Notice the assumptions that arise in your own head, when you learn that a woman was sexually assaulted or if you hear that a female colleague has accused another colleague of sexual harassment. Do you assume the woman provoked the man, or that she is making up her story?
  • Pay extra attention to how you speak to and treat the women and girls in your office environment - your colleagues, cleaning staff, partner staff, beneficiaries, etc. Do you notice a hierarchy? Do you allow yourself to be a part of it? Do you condone it?
  • Notice materials, projects, and services that your office develops for beneficiaries and/or the local community where you work. Is there any way in which these materials could be improved to promote greater equality between women and men?

How do YOU think we can improve the situation for female staff in the humanitarian and development fields? Share your ideas below . . .

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