Jun 23, 2010


Through all the hard lessons of the Gender Justice and Peoples Summits so far, there have been strong messages of hope. Southern partners creating impact and positive change through grassroots activism and advocacy. People living in seemingly the most helpless situations showing the most hope and strength.

"Sixteen women die every day in Malawi (in childbirth and unsafe abortions). Sixteen are dying today. Sixteen more will die tomorrow. Sixteen the day after that," explained Dorothy Ngoma, one of the powerful "W8" women speaking for women around the world. "But don't give up hope, don't stop what you are doing. You never know how many lives you are saving."

Despite the consistent message that abuse of patriarchal power, both at leadership and individual levels, is one of the root causes of the suffering and injustice, there was thankfully not a blanket demonizing of my un-fair sex. A speaker from Ethiopia (above, right) observed that "Men and women always rely on each other. Men and women always are concerned for each other. That's an opportunity we can build upon."

This same Ethiopian woman - "Bogy" - even found a thin, provocative silver lining in the HIV-AIDS epidemic. "HIV has been an entry point for women to talk. Whereas before women were muted, without a voice, HIV is a common concern for men and women, for old and young, so it has given women a chance to speak for themselves and start a dialogue with men."

If Harper could have just opened his ears, let alone his heart, to these powerful, courageous women, he would see the arrogance and ineffectiveness of his policy to only fund direct services instead of empowerment and capacity building of these local organizations to change their own society. "The reduction of Female Genital Mutilation and the increased acceptance of pre-marital HIV testing hasn't come about by changes in the law," explained Bogy. "They're the result of a change in culture that has happened because of people's understanding."

Dorothy Ngoma summed it up, "We don't want charity. We want solidarity. We want dignity."

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