This is the first of a series of four Learning Labs whose topics are selected by the women taking part in the ILC mentoring and solidarity Network “Women for Women”. A Lab on intersectionality in ILC was a perfect tribute to women activists and to the work of ILC members on women’s rights during the week of the International Women’s Day. The Learning Lab gathered personal and professional experiences from different regions, in an interactive exchange with the public.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
- The added value of intersectionality for ILC members
- How to use an intersectional approach to promote gender justice
- How to take into account different perspectives and needs in planning new actions
- Eileen Wakesho Mwagae - Community Land Protection Program Advisor, NAMATI, Kenya
- Pragyaa Rai - Programme Coordinator, Indigenous Women Programme at Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) , Nepal
- Rosa Montalvo - Projects, Monitoring & Evaluation ILC LAC Regional Coordination Unit, Peru
- Tracy Kajumba, Principal researcher, Climate Change; team leader, strengthening partnerships IIED, UK
The Lab was moderated by Elisabetta Cangelosi, ILC Gender Justice Advisor.
THE EXPERIENCE OF SPEAKERS
“Instead of highlighting how amazing women are on International Women’s Day, organisations and institutions should rather focus on statistics: how many women they employ, how many are white, how many are black” Eileen Wakesho Mwagae, NAMATI
The importance of unpacking discrimination emerged clearly, in Eileen intervention, linked to a widespread lack of acknowledgment of such discrimination. She added a personal feeling about pressure, to avoid other “people who look like me” to be judged on the basis of her own action.
A dramatic case from Bangladesh, shared by Pragyaa, demonstrated the multiple discrimination faced by indigenous women and girls in Asia and highlighted how crucial it is to work with and for indigenous women to ensure inclusion.
“ Choose to challenge inequality and injustice!” Pragyaa Rai, AIPP
Rosa and Tracy shared the experience of ILC RCU in Latin America and of IIED: both highlighted that intersectional analysis provides the opportunity to understand discrimination and privilege; and that this analysis requires deepening and then to be put in practice.
In Latin America, rural women are exposed to more violence than urban ones: they also face gender violence linked to the defence of their territories. Analysing these multiple forms of discrimination is a crucial step towards effective and changing interventions. Complexity of intersectional discrimination must be made visible!
It is also important, as Tracy mentioned, that organisations actively engage and “walk the talk”: understanding discrimination and privilege is the first step, but more should be done. Especially by those organisation that work with partners. Being a northern-based organisation, as IIED, can also be a challenge when it comes to extremely sensitive issues.
“ We are all still learning, going through a learning journey to be able to cause change!” Tracy Kajumba, IIED
Indeed, across the interventions, the importance of taking into account the diversity of contexts and challenging the narrative is confirmed as a crucial component of an intersectional approach. Sharing experiences and building alliances is also extremely important in the learning journey about intersectionality.
“I EXPERIENCED MULTIPLE DISCRIMINATION”: THE VOICES OF PARTICIPANTS
The Lab also offered the opportunity for participants to share their daily experience of multiple discrimination. This is a selection of what they said:
- “Sometimes you think that this happens only to other people or communities. But there are always personal experiences you can start with”.
- “In most cases the environment silences us, but I'm glad that we are starting to have these conversations”.
- “Sometimes we are not encouraged enough to share […] but the personal experience has a huge influence on our work!”.
- “Having colleagues regularly ‘re-say’ and appropriate my ideas in meetings and receive accolades/credit, while I had much milder responses”.
- “Looking young and being a woman, in some past work experiences I was seen like the secretary of a male boss or someone not knowledgeable”
- “I was heading an organization, but people preferred to talk to my male subordinate for ‘important’ issues”
- “A colleague[…] expressed prejudice against homosexuality [… ] I thought that a human rights approach embraced by her organisation and the personal commitment of this person to women’s rights would mean also tolerance to other people’s sexual orientation”
- “Having to justify a focus on LGBT populations within marginalized groups because they are considered such a small population”.
- “Patriarchal traditions, neoliberalism, caste, race and lack of paid opportunities and state repression form the many intersections that make gender justice a constant challenge”.
- “Being a woman and belonging to an indigenous community, the government counterparts do not take us as seriously”.