It’s 31st August at 1 am when I drive into what is to be my home for the next half month away from home. The Botswana National Productivity Centre at the heart of Gaborone City. I am one of the participants of the Women’s Health Empowerment and Masculinities 2016 Course.
As I enter the classroom on the 1st September 2016 at 9am, am met with curious eyes from the other participants and course facilitators from 10 other African Countries including; my own – Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Malawi, DRC, Namibia, Zimbabwe and United States. I can sense the excitement in the air as all of us look forward to learning and sharing our experiences with the new class.
For the next 15 days we get to bond, form cliques of friends and acquaintances. The well thought out and structured course touches on a number of subjects that were barely known to me. The course core facilitators as well as guest speakers do not disappoint either, they are very knowledgeable and willing to go extra mile to support participants!
We delve in depth and in scope on a number of subjects that draw my attention that include;
Social determinants of health and how the economic status of an individual plays a major role in determining their health compared to their health behavior which is what many program interventions have traditionally focused on!
The 5 components of women empowerment as by the UN definition and the realization that even as empowered as I thought myself to be, am lacking in one area or the other and that my marital, education and employment status do play a role in drawing me backwards or forward in the scale!!
The gender equality continuum tool that determines how gender transformative a program intervention is and the realization that what I have always considered a gender transformative program is actually gender exploitative!!
And it kept getting even crazier when we discussed the sex for reward continuum that sets out to determine the legitimacy versus illegitimacy of sexual acts by individuals and the realization that I actually at some point in life can be classified by the society as having engaged in sex work!!
And the craziest of them all, the fact that gender is fluid and whether one considers themselves hetero or homo the sexual practice/behavior i.e sex using vagina, anus, hands, breasts, mouth, name it, cuts across the spectrum, however, society chooses to label and judge when the practices are among same sex individuals!
The course also had an aspect of motivation for the participants in the form of competition for grant funding to the tune of 2000USD!! Oh me, when I learnt about this I couldn’t help reflecting back at my favorite quote by Conor McGregor “Competition gives me energy. It keeps me focused” And in keeping true to my ambitions, I was one of the finalists selected to receive the award among 5 other great competitors. Kudos to all finalists!!
This course has admittedly influenced my personal life as well as work. My perspective has been totally changed on a number of issues. Before coming into the course, I was very green on matters gender empowerment especially in programming. I had challenges participating meaningfully in feminists and other gender coalitions that I ascribe membership to. Today, this is a very different story! Thanks to WMATI 2016 course, Thanks to UCLA and Thanks to Sonke Gender Justice!!!!
Little by little you are changing the world.
Written by: Hellen Owino
Affiliation: Centre for the Study of Adolescence, Kenya