Reflections on gender and cross-cultural sensitivity

March 7, 2012

Leading up to the annual International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration on March 8th, there has been a lot written, and blog discussions, about the role of women in the world.  Some of these discussions have also veered in the direction of not only gender issues but general diversity awareness.  Where we are in our own awareness of issues of diversity and marginalization can give us each a starting place for how we can improve.  I’ve been in communities that pride themselves on ‘diversity’ but have little or no sensitivity to issues of gender, and I’ve been in communities that pride themselves on high levels of gender sensitivity, but little or no awareness of other diversity issues.

One’s perspective and sensitivity on these issues depends a lot on one’s own experiences.  If you were raised in a marginalized culture, with parents or a community that you talked with you about these issues, you may have come to your awareness, and perhaps a sensitivity to others at an early age.  Others of us may have had a professional experience or awakening through a positive or negative experience as an adult in the work world; while others may have a partner, spouse, or child who awakens us to the fact that we are not all treated  equally in society, and to broader issues of social justice.  And then there are those who are very aware of these issues but use them to their advantage in plays of power, both subtle and not so subtle.

If you have the time and inclination to read more on some of the discussions and activities surrounding International Women’s Day, here are some interesting links:

  1. International Women’s Day site 
  2. WE Alliance collaborative book of essays – what would you life look like as someone from the opposite gender?
  3. Photo essay on the UN’s evolving role over the years vis a vis empowering  women
  4. An excellent TED talk by writer Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”
  5. Carefully wading  into gender and international development blogging

Treating our fellow humans with respect, and working to ensure that the personal, organizational and legal frameworks we live under do the same, is an every day, on-going job.  On this IWD, let’s all recommit ourselves to looking inside our own ways of being in the world and see how we can be just a little better.