Le témoignage de ce travailleur humanitaire est fascinant:
The word gender has become meaningless in the humanitarian sector. And I say this as a gender adviser. I’m one of the converted and I speak with experience when I say that the word has become a beast. After many years and thousands of toolkits on how to integrate gender into aid work, people still don’t get it. And if they don’t get it by now, there is a problem with the word and what’s behind it.
When I tell people that I am a gender adviser, they ask what it means. My mum imagines me running across a war zone, scooping up women in my arms and dodging bombs while I carry them to safety. My brother thinks I advise people about gender reassignment. My friend thinks I work with “battered women”.
Gender, to them, is about women – or transgender people – and it’s the same in the aid sector. Despite cries that gender is as much about men as it is about women, most project proposals or documents referring to gender will mention women, but little about men. If they do talk about men, they do so in terms of their relations with and respect for women.
This focus on women is necessary when women are impacted more overtly by gender inequality than men. But the problem is that men also have serious challenges. They are different to women’s and in some contexts not so severe, but they are there. And the aid sector, as a result of this word gender, is ignoring them. And that’s why it is dangerous.
Actually aid workers don’t really understand what problems and capacities men have. We don’t know much about sexual violence against men, labour exploitation, high rates of depression and suicide, or forced recruitment into armed groups. And let’s face it, we have limited time in which we are already expected to do so much. No wonder gender becomes about women because we know so much more about their issues and the whole system is geared towards their needs.
It’s actually funny because if you mention men and boys in meetings you get big nods of approval and a chorus of “yes we must not forget about them”. But they promptly do get forgotten because we don’t actually know what to do. I saw a funding proposal where the words women and children were interchangeable with vulnerable people, so the only people who were not vulnerable were men. So, gender is women.
Of course gender is just one of many buzzwords in humanitarian speak. My personal favourite is the field which has become synonymous with any place outside of the US, Europe, Australia and Canada. Calling people who have been raped survivors and not victims is another example. By calling someone a survivor, we risk losing the fact that something criminal has happened and we reinforce ideas that rape is not on the same level as other types of crimes. We don’t call people who have undergone robbery or human trafficking a survivor. Yes, I understand the huge emotional implications around rape but rape is still a crime, which has its victims as any other crime and for which persecutors should be prosecuted.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I am passionate about what I do. But I can’t accept that we are doing a good job of addressing women’s and men’s needs. Instead, we are perpetuating stereotypes by refusing to acknowledge the issues men experience in any meaningful way.
I propose new terminology. And let’s keep it simple. Humanitarian impact on women. Humanitarian impact on men. Within that will be different age ranges. It can include protection and participation but it will do what gender has been trying to do all this time, which is to address the actual different needs of women and men. It’s not catchy but we are not here to be catchy.