Many of us have been spoon-fed post-feminist era jargon, leading us to believe that women and men now enjoy equality. (Excuse us, while we each pull our heads from the toilet.) While, in many countries, women may enjoy improved access to greater equality, there are few areas of the world that can pride themselves on true gender equality.
Unfortunately, the aid-working community which devotes countless hours to crafting beautifully-written policies on women's rights and gender balance is not immune to this reality.
In fact, not only is the aid-working community not immune to this continued imbalance, female aid workers often describe their experience with sexist remarks, sexual harassment, and even assault in the aid-working environment as particularly poignant and strikingly elevated.
But, before you discount us as hot-headed, fire-spewing, embittered feminists, allow us to elaborate....
The reality for female aid workers is that...
- men (as elsewhere in the world) typically hold managerial positions
- men dominate security sectors and tend not to understand as well or to emphasize SGBV issues or needs
- women face an exponential rate of sexual harassment and assault, both within and beyond the workplace
- SGBV cases seem to go unreported, under-reported, or to be brushed off as insignificant
- women often face very real risks in the streets and out in the field (being followed home, harassed, even abused)
- women commonly face sexual harassment within the office that is excused and/or overlooked, and women are expected to brush it off and carry on as if nothing happened
- many men are known for using prostitutes and regularly viewing porn - on office computers
- women are often childless, even if they wish(ed) to be mothers, given their isolated locations, lack of access to family duty stations, and the emphasis on working long hours, which causes many women to miss out on their child-bearing years
It doesn't have to be this way. How can we improve the aid-working world so it more welcoming to women and also safer? What might you do to help?