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Gender and Social Change - Response to Mu

10 October 2005

Mu - wonderful comments. Thanks so much for sharing this. I totally agree on many fronts. Firstly, respect is the key. We have to recognize that different women have a different pace of change that is suitable for them. It's more sustainable that way, for starters. But also it demonstrates that the international community can truly operate with women taking the lead. Our role should be supportive - funding, resources, networks, etc. We tend to hijack a situation - as was done in Afghanistan - and assume that we know best what the women here need. An ideal example is the Western agencies and media obsession with the bourka. This became the barometer of social change in the country, leading us to assume that Western dress means liberation, while being "beneath the bourka" (as the oft-used cliche phrase goes!) was opression. A facile analysis that only served to marginalize Afghan women. I very much appreciate what you were saying about your work with men and domestic violence. I would love to undertake this kind of initiative with men here (as we witness domestic violence increasing in recent years), but I do not know of an organization that would support the activity. Again, we say "gender" but we mean "women". Even Afghans have adopted the word as a synonym for women. We lose out on an opportunity when we do this - an opportunity for further social change, with men and women together as equals.

I'd love to get your feedback on my recently-published report (pdf) on working on gender issues in the context of post-conflict (specific to Afghanistan, but probably applicable elsewhere).

On a personal note, I'm planning a move to Cambodia to work with women. It's my ideal next-stop after I'm finished in Afghanistan. I'd be grateful for any suggestions you might have.

I think I've posted this twice... somehow it didn't appear under "comments". Whoopsie!

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