Posts tagged gender equality
Posts tagged gender equality
“In the club we feel more comfortable talking about issues in the community and then talking together to agree the best solution. I suppose we’re more powerful now, in this way.”
“We want to get the young members of rural Azerbaijan to start thinking outside of their daily scope of how men and women are seen and valued in Azerbaijan, and move into what is possible for the future of their country.”
Peace Corps Volunteers Rick Wiersma and Roxann Brown are working with members of their community to promote gender equality. Recently Wiersma and Brown held a group discussion on gender and development with more than 25 Azerbaijani students and community members in southern Azerbaijan. They reviewed the role of gender within families, women’s rights and gender equality.
Happy International Women’s Day!
“Women here always feel they must do things; they must clean the house, they must cook, they must forgive their husbands.” And so I dove straight into the world of women’s rights, gender roles and healthy relationships here in Kyrgyzstan.
One thing I want to make very clear is that the problems women face here are not unlike things we experience in the United States. Some things, bride kidnapping for instance, are a bit different but the overall themes of domestic violence, sexual assault and discrimination are the same, if maybe just on a slightly different scale.
This was the topic of our most recent Mom’s Club session and while encouraging in some respects, it has also left me feeling numb, confused and unfortunately, a little hopeless.
While it doesn’t upset me as much as it used to, I am still taken aback, frustrated and angry every time I experience the gender inequality first hand here. I have been blatantly ignored by men, especially when I am with a male PCV, and I experience some form of verbal harassment at least every other week. Many people are confused when I tell them I am a business volunteer and not a teacher, calling me “businessman” which is humorous but annoying at the same time.
All of this, however, if nothing compared to what locals experience here. I was quickly brought back to my days of working at DVSAS (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services) during our session. Our discussion of healthy relationships quickly took off into a debate over what to do in an abusive relationship. Should the woman leave? What would she do if she did? What would her family think? And worst of all: maybe she did something to deserve getting hit.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are topics that are hardly discussed in the United States. Here it is almost unheard of, sexual assault in particular. I have heard of some of the worst cases, which only makes me wonder how much is going on under the surface. The enormity of this situation all over the world feels like an unbearable weight I have no idea how to move.
The only thing I feel I can do at this point is encourage women to talk about it. This is not something to keep quiet, hidden within the household. It needs to be brought out and discussed, so that hopefully, someday things will begin to improve.
The one point of hope at the end of the session was the oldest woman in the group pointing out that “We only feel this way because of how we were raised. If we raise our children to think this is wrong and that they should expect more from their spouses, then things will begin to change.”
Today, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting the great work our Volunteers are doing around the world to support gender equality and celebrating all the women Volunteers who’ve gone where people told them girls couldn’t go!
“The goal of the presentations was to promote social awareness as well as critical thinking in local community members,” said Wiersma, a graduate of Liberty University who has been living and working in Azerbaijan since September 2011. “We want to get the young members of rural Azerbaijan to start thinking outside of their daily scope of how men and women are seen and valued in Azerbaijan and move into what is possible for the future of their country.”
Happy 1st day of Summer! Here are some examples of the fun and empowering camps that our Volunteers are organizing around the world for girls and youth of all ages this Summer.
Every International Women’s Day, the ladies of Burkina celebrate by participating in dances, sports and other festivities. Here, my friends from village make their way to our closest city for the March 8, 2009 activities. Each year, the country produces a new fabric design to celebrate the day and women rush to the textile retailers and tailors to have outfits made in time for the holiday.
Peace Corps Health Volunteer Karla Morrison
Burkina Faso, 2009
A West Michigan man says the empowerment of women in Senegal helps not only them, but benefits the environment as well.
Andrew Oberstadt became an ally to women in that West African nation when he helped organize Race for Education, a run that will raise money for girls’ education in Senegal’s Tambacounda region.
He and Geoff Burmiester, both of Holland, organized the event with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.
Oberstadt didn’t intend to take up the cause when he first moved to Senegal via the Peace Corps in 2010. He was more focused on issues such as environmental protection.
What Oberstadt didn’t realize was how keeping women in school could positively affect the environment, he said.
If women earn degrees, they begin careers. When they begin careers, many postpone marriage and pregnancy. When they can plan and space their pregnancies, they have fewer children. Overpopulation — a major issue for the African continent — wreaks havoc on the environment, as the demand for resources increases.
“I am now convinced that women’s empowerment and family planning are some of the best causes we can support to make a positive change in the world,” Oberstadt said in an email.
Peace Corps Volunteers John Hart and Caroline Lucas helped launch a women-owned small business in Armenia selling and producing handmade stuffed bears. Since the Berd Bear project started in March 2011, the women have sold 230 bears, and generated thousands of dollars.
“The women of Berd are incredibly talented and hardworking. They put a lot of pride into their craft, which is evident in each carefully and lovingly handmade bear,” said Lucas. “As sales of the Berd Bear increase, more local Armenian women are able to work in full-time positions with the BWRCF.”
Additional income generated by sales of the Berd Bear is used to provide members of the foundation with training classes in basic computer skills, business development and other topics.
“Aside from the financial benefits generated by bear sales, the women are also gaining business and leadership skills,” continued Lucas. “Now, these women can help support their families.”