Last week, I was amazed and inspired by the effectiveness of reporting centers and safe spaces for communication between families, and this week is no different. I continue to be impressed with the discussion and problem solving around community issues, in this case gender inequality and injustices.
I was fortunate to attend a “Gender and Peace Training” facilitated by three organizations from the Palu area, YAMMI (Indonesia Civil Society Foundation), SHK (Community Forestry System) and Yayasan Bone Bula (White Sand Foundation). These three groups set out to map the District of Donggala for causes of potential conflict. A few of their findings include competition for access to and control of natural resources, inadequate data about ethnic groups in this area, and policies that are not gender inclusive. From the participatory community mapping, YAMMI, SHK and Bone Bula realized that community members’ understanding and knowledge of gender was less sophisticated than they assumed, so the “Gender and Peace” training was adjusted to address the community members’ specific needs.
The “Gender and Peace” training, which included local men and women, related a variety of information about gender, including a discussion on the basic differences of sex and gender leading to increased verbalization of gender injustices in communities. The workshop also included discussions about the discrepancies between the types and amount of work that men and women perform, the barriers to work women face, and the lack of women’s participation in community development and policy.
To highlight these differences the workshop facilitator, Jerna Wati from the Indonesia Women’s Coalition, along with the participants, created a timetable or daily schedule, describing women’s and men’s tasks throughout the day. The differences were staggering; women’s schedules were jam-packed with household chores, food preparation and child care, and men’s schedules, with jobs outside the household, had considerably more free time, involvement in the community and influence in public policies. The workshop participants also discussed the negative effects that these differences in the work force have on women’s health, education and access to information and technology. Following the training the participants chose to lobby their local governments to ensure women are invited to participate in village development planning. In addition workshop participants now better realize gender inequalities and are eager and motivated to hold meetings in their own communities to disseminate this information.
I recognize a discussion about sex and gender and the realization of gender inequalities will not change communities and policy overnight, but it is a step in the right direction. However, including women in the conversation could be life-changing. As Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman, talking about thirst-quenching living water, I like to assume Jesus had intentions about changing social norms, letting women be a part of the conversation and more importantly spreading the message of Christ’s saving grace. Jesus saw the value of including not only his disciples, but men and women living on the margins of society, placed there because of illness, disability, marital status, sexual immorality, and even ethnicity. Jesus simply talked with the woman, and in turn she shared her story with the community. “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him…Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:28-30, 39) In the village workshops in Indonesia, and my reflection on our work here, I am realizing the power of communication and conversation to avoid violence, maintain peace and spread the message of Christ; all it takes is people talking to one another and understanding multiple points of view.