Monday, February 21, 2011
I had a wonderful conversation with two young activists from the Netherlands, Rineke and Joni, this evening. They came on behalf of WO=MEN, the Dutch Gender Platform, which, according to Joni, focuses on making connections, such as between North and South countries, men and women, personal and political issues, and public and private initiatives. Both women emphasized that the Dutch development organizations have much to learn from their partners on the ground, and that just as problems are often connected across borders, so too are solutions. They particularly admire the ways that organizations in some countries have women and men working together to improve women's rights, such as anti-violence efforts in South Africa that actively involves men.
Both women emphasized that just as women and girls are not only victims, but are also agents for change, men and boys are not only aggressors and perpetrators, but can also be partners in creating more just gender relations. They emphasized the need to include men in events such as the parallel events to the CSW. A young man who participated in the violence against the girl child breakout session made a heartfelt statement to the group about how violence against women harms men too, concluding "it hurts...as a man I know it." Rineke, Joni and I also talked about how gender stereotypes can be harmful to boys and men as well, which made me think about my own students in 4th and 5th grade, when boys started acting tough, violent, and rowdy, behavior that often led them into serious academic or even legal trouble. I wish for both the little girls and the little boys in my classes that we could help them develop ideas about gender that allow everyone to grow up in a safe environment, where they can all make mistakes, ask questions, and follow their own interests.
Read Rineke and Joni's blog HERE