OMG!! my brain is just sooooooooo heavy with all info from the interesting & educational sessions I attended. But I will only blog about my 1st morning session – Fitting THEM in….
Work with “sexual minorities” is often perceived as niche work; that can only be done by specialist originations. HIV prevention work is increasingly being informed by approaches that have a basis in understandings of sexuality. How are “mainstream” HIV and AIDS organizations responding to the need to incorporate sex and sexuality issues in their prevention work? How are these needs of marginal identities being incorporated into our programs?
Sally & Vanessa were our dynamic facilitators, along with Navin. It was a funfilled & informative session. For me personally, there were (are) some new issues which I got to reflect on. We hit the floor identifying our gender & sexual orientation. I might say it was a teeny-weeny awkward for some. I guess some people are “not comfortable” talking about ‘sexual orientation”. This is a challenge to those who are working within the issue of sexuality. Questions we need to ask ourselves. Are we ready to be open-minded & deal with different sexual orientations? Will we be able to respect one’s decisions regarding their sexual life? Are we able to give them their human rights?
Our facilitators asked us to close our eyes and think of when we last had sex!!! Some just did that. And then we discussed what erupted in our brain with our partner sitting next to us. We realized later in the open floor discussions that there was no mention of vagina, penis or condoms! The question was thrown out if “we” ourselves are uncomfortable to talk about our sex life what about those who come to our organizations to access services? This is where we need to seriously understand and be comfortable with gender identity, sexual orientation and other sexual issues. We just cannot assume (the key word for me (quite interesting & which I never really reflected on).
The questions was asked when we talk about “women and men” – who are we really talking about? Are we inclusive? What about LGBTI? What about the human rights violations they face? What are we doing as individuals, organizations and a community as a whole?
Digital stories were shown regarding Gender Dynamics to further illustrate the importance of understanding the sexuality issues in the community.
- When I agreed to be a rapporteur I didn’t anticipate that it would be challenging. Besides, how difficult could it be to just report what I had heard? This was certainly not the case. At the outset it was fascinating to learn how partners were working with rights in their contexts and. It was clear that this was not easy especially when partners hit deadlock when they tried to address any violations. Following the sessions along the “beyond access” thematic area proved to be both informative, enlightening and in some instances challenging.
It was a difficult balancing act to listen to what others had to say about their experiences in working with rights. Sometimes we are selective about what information we choose to hear and process based on our own prejudices and biases. I had to remind myself that my role was to report what I heard and not my interpretation of what I heard. I guess this was the lesson I had learnt at the intersections conference. Perhaps this is a skill we need to master when we choose to be advocates for others.
By Urvarshi Rajcoomar
- This was my first experience to be involved in such challenging duty. I am used to be in conferences as a participants having to articulates and be involved in discussions. In saying that for me, this was a new experience having to document or capture discussions let alone of such big event.
Seating and listing to all the different reports on what each organisation is doing and also capturing the discussions having to summarise all that to give report back was quit challenging yet good Learning. It was challenging because I was never had such opportunity.
The documentation of sessions and listening was challenging because I am not good in listening and writing at the same time and I found my self wanting to contribute when there are burning discussions. I want to thank Oxfam for giving such opportunity.
Many organisations are guided by welfare approach while providing their services. During the session: 'when is it welfare and when is it development'; it was interesting that there were arguments that organisations need to move from welfare approach towards development approach. However, we learnt a lesson that there is nothing wrong with welfare approach.
This is sometimes needed in order to make our future sustainable. For example, while providing child support grant, we are contributing towards a sustainable future. Indeed, we need to be able to identify where each approach should be appropriate: welfare or development.
- Rapparteur: Dumisani Malwane
Organisation: Maputaland Development and Information Centre (MDIC)
First time rapparteuring for a conference of this magnitude whereby one interacts with people from different disciplines, backgrounds, organisations and countries is always scarring, intimidative and shocking. In this exercise one has interacted with people who speak the language with accent and excellent diction, people who generate great ideas and articulate them eloquently. In the final analysis it was an honour and privilege to be me who was chosen to take up the rapparteuring job. I am humble by this opportunity offered to me.
On the first day I could not figure out what to take down and what to leave out because all information was so vital. Another challenging part was to listen, synthesize and write and when the debate heated up I simply got lost in action. However, I found it is ease to work with Joseph Francis because we had the opportunity to discuss the structure of his thematic sessions before engaging participants and for the fact that I have worked with him before in the community development agenda.
The second day was bit hectic as I had to attend three sessions facilitated by different facilitators. I found issues emerging from these sessions to be interrelated. It gradually became ease to pick up emerging lessons and trends. For instance listening from what participants are pointing out I realized that there is a shift in the discourse of domination; it has been Poverty then HIV/AIDS now is HIV and Food Security and the Climate Change is now emerging to be a Buzz concept to dominate the centre stage in the development agenda.
- Coming to this event was quite a journey; I left home before sunrise on Sunday morning to get to the Port Elizabeth airport and finally arrived in Pietermaritzburg around midday. While in motion for all those hours, I kept wondering what it would be like to enter a space and process that was both strange and familiar. I have not worked with Oxfam before, but have been involved in the NGO sector for more years than I care to own up to.
Would I know people? Would I be able to ease my way into the process and fulfil the role of listener and holder of questions that I had been asked to play? How would the programme be? Arriving at the venue felt like a homecoming. I did know some people (thank goodness) and others whom I didn’t know were warm, open and welcoming. The way the programme had been put together with the intention of weaving wisdom through a combination of input, listening and dialogue excited me. I took a deep breath, worked my tense shoulders loose and opened my heart and mind for what was to come.
I really enjoyed being asked just to listen. I am so often in a position of leading or facilitating processes. Here, my job has been to listen to what is being said, but also what is not being said. To honour the wisdom and experience of people present and to invite that which is not being acknowledged or spoken. To highlight ideas or ways of working that may be in the process of birthing.
My role has been to sit in on sessions that explore the issue of sustainability. Two of the sessions were about practical issues – networking and base line studies – while the other two were about the less practical and overt issues of leadership and reflection. I also thoroughly enjoyed a session looking at the ways in which linking welfare and development approaches could enable sustainability. In the opening address, the Oxfam Australia CEO spoke about being “practical visionaries” in this work – holding onto the passion and vision that generates and drives what we do, but also being thorough, rigorous and practical in the way we do it.
That has been a thread that has woven its way through all the sessions I have sat in on; sustainability depends on nurturing the desire to address the conflicts, suffering and injustices of our world while also paying close attention to the many demands, practical tasks and contextual realities of what we do. The details are a bit blurry after two intense days but I hope to be able to distil them this evening so I can do my presentation in the morning.
The session on Welfare vs Development took the format of a Participatory Activity called Active listening, where one writes down the points that stand out during project presentations. Thereafter common thoughts are collected and grouped together.
I was particularly struck by the following cards in no particular order.
- Development is when independance is achieved after the welfare is removed.
- Lack of community ownership in development projects is welfare. They do not develop independance.
- NPO's are scared of profits. We need to engage in business ideas.
- Do we understand the structural unemployment in SA? What labour market are we training people for.
- Immediate relief provides a foundation on which to build.
- When planning community mobilisation requires planning of consequences.
- Strategic partnerships are key for an organisation to meet relief and development challenges.
- NGO belief that they should be non-profit making hampers innovation and their own development and community development.
- Education by NGO's versus government education. Are we diverging or moving together.
- How do we move home based care and support groups to more sustainable models.