Beyond SGRI

“My onward journey from SGRI started almost immediately as I went on to the YWCA World Council and International Women's Summit in Zurich after the Institute. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a strong area of focus for the World YWCA. So, I was interested to see how my learnings from SGRI translated into the world of my broader organisation, one which can sometimes be very conservative. I primarily reflected on what I had learnt during visioning and discussion sessions at World Council, when I took opportunities to raise concerns about women who were not being heard within the World YWCA movement, particularly queer women, women with disabilities, and sex workers. I had mixed responses, but some fellow delegates were interested in participating in conversations about the lack of opportunity for these women within the movement.

 

At home, I have been putting what I learnt into practice, particularly in relation to discussions of gender and its place in conversations about society. I work with young women in schools, and gender is an area we discuss heavily. After having all my assumptions about what gender means challenged at SGRI, particularly by Carole Vance [SGRI faculty member and teacher of anthropology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, US], I have had to rethink the way I approach the question with my students, so as not to completely confuse them while still maintaining a quality conversation.

 

I am still digesting a lot of what I learnt in Istanbul. I reflect on my notes from my time there regularly and try to draw more from them each time. At work, I am currently working on a funding proposal to expand my programme extensively and focus more heavily on violence prevention in intimate relationships. Sexuality will become a more central aspect of the programme, and I am always relieved to be able to refer to my notes and what I learnt in Istanbul when advocating for the importance of this education for Australian young women.

 

I have spoken to many colleagues about the Institute, written a few articles, and spoken at a number of events. My website, in particular, has been effected by my education, having now taken on a more active and vehement approach to sex worker rights than I ever thought would happen.”

—Cathy, Participant

 

“It would be difficult to give a complete panorama about the very enriching experience that represented SGRI to me, but I will try to draft a brief account.

 

Better negotiation/stronger alliances working in highly contested and diverse entourages. The necessity to shape a significant outcome working shoulder to shoulder with people so diverse (linguistically, backgrounds, activism) and critic taught me how to listen in a deeper level the motivations of the people I am working with. This, in turn, fostered my capacity to dialogue beyond pure instrumental teamwork. At SGRI, I enjoyed the dynamics of this dialogue and learnt how to develop ideas and platforms of action from common frameworks that were flexible enough to respect and include differences and dissent. SGRI plural forums prepared me to have a better understanding of negotiation and inclusion when doing alliances with people.

 

Question our labels and own biases. Since we work in a context which cannot be detached from the vindication claims of identity (as LGBT and feminism certainly does), we rely heavily on labels. However, we can try to question labels and try to put the debate on diversity, even including heteronormativity or “traditional” families as part of our struggle for diversity. Since SGRI, I have learnt that working in a non-fixed label scenario is useful for developing bridges and self-identification, while counter-weighing our own biases.

 

Understanding differences and convergences of activism in regions from the global South. SGRI represented to me the very first time to work beyond my Latin American cultural framework. This opportunity helped me to understand commonalities of activism in the South, in terms of opportunity and challenges as well as crucial divergences that made me become aware of things I have not noticed in my previous environment, in terms of the intersections in culture, history, colonialism, race, religion, and others.

 

Analysing my context and opportunity of success. By having the extensive sharing of patterns of action and talking with my peers about their work, I became more eager to analyse the context surrounding my own plans of action. This made me more sensible to connect social variables and manage better the political timing when trying to develop a path of action.

 

Constructing better campaigns/communication strategies. Sometimes as human rights defenders, we focus on denouncing violations. Even though, definitively, this could be our role so as to raise awareness, thinking about positive/catchy communication strategies is crucial. I learned that when constructing messages (narratives/textual/visual/political) we are creating representations. While rejecting the evocation of certain kind of stereotypes, our messages can become more powerful and attract a broader public by making them feel more identified with our cause.

 

Well, of course, I learnt more than that, but just sketched a few ideas...”

—Erick, Participant