Notable lessons I took from a PHD Research and Activism Seminar. This is particularly informative those involved in women’s rights programming activities. I hope we can move to designing programs where answers are derived from sincere and honest conversations, as opposed to, being trained by someone of knowledge!
- Needs Assessments: Instead of taking objectives to the field, develop the objectives from the field. This enables a more participatory approach to assessing needs and responding to them.
- NL: I think sometimes when we assert that certain rights are immutable and inalienable, we may forget the contexts where these rights are ‘asked’ or ‘contested’. There are nuances to these problems that make the contestations and the asking difficult. We can be mindful that we should not simply be stating “you have rights from violence, you have rights to inheritance etc..” Our publications and programs should instead query why violence occurs, why usurpation of property occurs, by who, and whether the ‘rights’ language is necessarily relevant and timely for the cause. What dialogues can we facilitate and participate in to explore the frustrations behind rights-violations?
- Mapping the political context; by targeting the institutions that shape the context of research. What is this institution saying about this issue? In fact different institutions may offer different lens and methods of approaching an issue.
- Instead of identifying ‘opposers’, think of building them within one’s spectrum of allies. Develop goals with them. Even if goals are not aligned, find meaning in conversations even if it leaves the subject with ambiguities. Professor Mir Hosseini always talk about being comfortable with ambiguities. We need not know all the answers NOW.
- How does our identity as a speaker/trainer create our positionality? Positionality is a power dynamic, real or perceived. By the terms ‘feminist’, or as a ‘lawyer’, etc..one already assumes a knowledge that you seek to impart to others. There are ethical considerations behind this; of how attempting to ‘train’ or ‘educate’ others, you yourself create a hierarchy where feminist knowledge gives one an upper hand over the other?
- How may FI programs, or the language (on our website) create this feeling amongst beneficiaries? Like “to train, to educate, to teach”….What about “to converse, to hold a dialogue, to discuss, to find ways collectively”? Perhaps this may change the way we design programs.
- There is an interaction between knowledge and the subject of knowledge. There is a power starting from the power of the pen, which may translate as a sense of superiority over a subject and therefrom over lives, performance and knowledge.
- The great reminder: We should not be complacent with our knowledge and passion!
- Also an acceptance that in reality, not all fora will accept us. Professor Welchman speaks of feeling hurt by politics of exclusion for variety of purposes (difference in class status, difference in appearance, difference in religion, difference in regional origins..etc) But she encourages us to be non-territorial, inclusive and unyielding both in perseverance and humility.
Then some interesting notes from Gender and Armed Conflict class by Professor Heathcote:
- When using the word women, have to think about the differences that exist, singular deployment is a problem.
- Who do we mean when speaking about women?
- When are we speaking about women?
- Where? Cannot just Be a global category. Temporal and geographic.
- Standpoint; what is your standpoint, where are you doing from, how are you going to deal with difference and difference of women in your work? How do you accommodate differences, where were the connections, or shared experiences?