Monday, July 14, 2008

on gender and culture

Monday morning. back in Wum. the meeting with our APCD went relatively well. i.e. short and painless... we’ll see how fruitful it was come IST. i sent the health APCD an email regarding the HIV/AIDS session. that we’d like a session geared specifically to how to combat myths, preconceptions and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, condoms and sex education. we’ll see... maybe i was asking too much.

the session on women’s issues (suggested by kay) would also be nice. think we’d have to run it though as the trainers were just looking at us with blank faces. it would be nice to address issues like some of the female PCVs face at post. discrimination and insensitivity on the part of men... knowingly or not.

this is tough only b/c we’d be trying to address something so entrenched in culture. some may hesitate to bring up the issue, fearing that it’s not our place to even attempt to change such things. i think it’s anybody’s place. it’s not just a 'western' notion of feminism and women’s lib... it’s about respect, equity and justice.

i don’t for a moment buy the cop out that such gender issues are cultural. that we’re better off saving ourselves the trouble of confronting it. maybe we can’t (i’m sure we can’t) change an attitude like that with one session at IST or even 2 years here. still we need to try and should start somewhere.

if the ladies can share some experiences and enlighten us on situations that made them uncomfortable/angry... ones we were/are totally oblivious to. we need to learn to be a little more aware of things said or unsaid that we ought not condone or be complicit in.

and this is'nt just for their sake but other women around us (Cameroonian too, of course) and our sake. kinder, better, less ignorant, more righteous people. but it shouldn’t be an issue of West vs. East b/c it’s not.

again, i don’t for a minute buy the notion that this is how an entire culture treats its women and, thus, something that cannot be addressed for fear of impinging on cultural norms.

ahhh... you know, who am i kidding? this is a very complicated issue. i need to talk to kay and adam about it. we’ll see what we can come up with for an IST session.

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