what is a gender lens?

In Notes on 1 December, 2011 at 1:23 am

on my first morning as a ‘gender technical officer’, i sat in a conference room full of men – my new colleagues. they are ‘business facilitators’ in maize, rice and soya (i’m still figuring out what that means). my job is to be their gender lens.

before our first meeting, i had a moment of panic. it has been 2 years since i graduated with a major in gender studies. when i picked up my so-called”gender spectacles”, i realised they were dusty.

i was introduced to the room as “the gender lens”. one man asked, “is it single or double? because they say ‘gender’, but they only look at women.”

i don’t blame him for thinking that “gender” is only about women – sometimes, we give that perception. sometimes, development projects and activists take the simplistic “just add women” approach. to me, this is unsustainable. women and men need to work together to create a better world for us and our descendents.

this is one of my favourite quotes:

“The world of humanity has two wings – one is women and the other men. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment.” (Abdu’l-Baha)

the bird needs both wings to fly.

i assured my male colleagues that i wear a double gender lens – i strive to pay equal attention to the lives and realities of wo/men:

think of a gender lens as putting on spectacles. out of one lens of the spectacles, you see the participation, needs and realities of women. out of the other lens, you see the participation, needs and realities of men. your sight or vision is the combination of what each eye sees.

gender is about relationships between men and women. gender equality is about equal valuing of men and women – of their similarities and their differences. we need equal, respectful partnerships between men and women to have happy, healthy families and communities in the same way that we need both eyes to see best.


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