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“I am the Change I want to See”

World Vision
29 November 2017 by World Vision
“I am the Change I want to See”

Many of our staff and volunteers help build and run programs that are helping to question harmful social and gender norms and eliminate gender based violence. Here are just a few of the incredible change makers who are doing powerful work in facilitating conversations and actions. Helping build a better world every day, a world where women and children live without fear or favour.
We’ll be adding new stories throughout the 16 Days of Activism.

Mwiyeria Munyeki
Compliance Advisor – Humanitarian Emergency Affairs, World Vision Australia

“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Growing up, my retired military parents never taught me to aspire to marriage, neither did they teach me, that there were things I could or could not do, because I was female. I was treated the same as my brother. We had access to the same opportunities, attended the same schools, played the same sports. We were encouraged to go after things we wanted. I was never advised by my parents to be “nice” to boys lest they thought I was bossy. And never ever was I taught that it was ok for a boy or man to lay a finger on me because I must have done something to deserve it.

When close friends of the family behaved inappropriately with me, I told my parents and their visits ceased. When sexually harassed on the streets of Nairobi, I told my mother, and never did she ask “what were you doing there?”, “what were you wearing?”
Having this support was, and remains one of the most important aspects of my life. However, my mother also taught me that the world didn’t share the same convictions, and in a way prepared me for what is most women’s experience in the outside world.

Gender based violence has been normalised in many parts of the world. The UN estimates that almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence[1]. More than one in ten girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives[2].

Violence against women is not inevitable. We all have a role to play to prevent it. In our work, we empower women and strengthen institutions related to reporting. But let’s remember, the greatest influence we will ever have is in our homes.

Let us not forget to have these conversations with our loved ones, let us create an atmosphere of honesty, trust and support. Let bring up children who will no longer consider themselves fortunate to have had the support, safety and opportunities they had regardless of their gender, but children who make it the standard.

“A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Lynette Tasman
Warlpiri Community Leader and Associate Pastor of the Lajamanu Baptist Church, Australia.

Lynette is a local Warlpiri Community Leader and the Associate Pastor of the Lajamanu Baptist Church. She’s also a Mother and a Grandmother and has been heavily involved in the Channels of Hope for Gender Project.
This project is supported by World Vision Australia and has been implemented in Lajamanu since early 2016.

Lajamanu is a very remote Aboriginal community of around 656 people (ABS, 2011), located 900 km North West of Alice Springs. Family violence is a topic often kept private and pushed to the edges of conversation and is commonly seen as a ‘family issue’ that others should not get involved in. But this secrecy around family violence only serves to worsen the issues and often leaves the victim powerless. Lynette, through this project has started to challenge this and drive change in her community.

“With talking to the church members about Channels of Hope it did bring family violence out into the open. Before we weren’t sure, we had fear to go out and talk about domestic violence. But now we’re talking about it openly. They might say to us “this is our private fight”… Channels of Hope is slowly changing that for us here.”

Over the past 18 months Lynette and others have developed culturally appropriate and faith-based resources, including paintings and a workbook, which have helped them start conversations with community members around family violence.

Lynette has taken a lead on sharing the Channels of Hope studies with women in Lajamanu. This has included taking 21 young women out bush to open up a dialogue, creating a safe space for them to talk about family violence and its impacts and what respectful relationships without violence can look like.
It’s good when we go out like that, out bush everyone can just relax and talk properly with a clear mind. Talking with those young women was really good, they need to know about these things,” says Lynette.

“ Channels of Hope gave us the courage to go out and talk to people and to be there for them. We have respect from the community because they know why we do this Channels of Hope work. I feel so happy sharing and helping my people this way’.

“Now that we’ve been doing this Channel of Hope for a while, some people are starting to slow down a bit. People in the community are getting to know us and what we (the facilitators) are doing. Instead of getting violent straight away, they are coming to talk to us and calming down. That’s what I’ve seen change.”

Lynette and the team are now connecting with local agencies and services to explore how they can work together to reduce violence in the community and support people through any challenges they may have, but without resorting to violence.

Working together; Kardiya (whitefellas) and Yapa (Aboriginal people), the Church and other services is acknowledged as a big step forward and a way to start addressing gender based violence in the community.

Munkhtuul Khatanbaatar – Program advisor, Mongolia

My name is Munkhtuul Khatanbaatar, my friends call me Tuul.  I was born and live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

I graduated from the Institute of Commerce and Business and got my bachelor degree Business Administration with major in Accountancy. I think everyone knows life in Mongolia is tough, but with my degree I had a bright future and I had hope.  I thought my life would be safe as I would get a job in a company and work my profession. However, for two years after graduation I couldn’t find a job.  Unfortunately, I realised most of the private and public companies refused to hire  a woman with a disability. In the end because of discrimination I decided to directly work on rights of persons with disabilities like myself and joined an NGO called the Independent Living Centre in 2012.

I do not want to finish my life with anything left undone.  I want to be a happy girlfriend and date without fear of social barrier and I want to be a great mother and a wife with happy family.. I study, work and I’m always chasing something and will be my whole of my life. I am one of the people who want everyone to experience equal rights and have all the support and opportunities to live independently.

Due to polio at the age of two I use a wheelchair. With my passion for justice I am working hard to create a safety, friendly, equity, equality, accessible living environment for everyone to fully able to participate and contribute to society. If you see beyond my picture and beyond the wheelchair you would see I am filled with a fire to change social attitude towards of persons with disabilities.  As a woman with a disability I have experienced discrimination and exclusion from employment first-hand.

I started to work disabled people’s organisation in Mongolia, in 2012.  In May 2016, I worked with a World Vision Australia trainer and trained World Vision Mongolia staff about discriminating and exclusion and the importance of working with partners like the Independent Living Centre. I wish World Vision everywhere could join with women, men and children with disabilities in this work. We do not need your protection, we need your support and real cooperation.

 

Jill Roche – Chief of Corporate Affairs, World Vision Australia

My post school ride was bumpy! At 20, I found myself juggling the responsibility of two very gorgeous twins, while trying to work out how to build a career and provide for my family. Even with great support from family and friends, for many years life seemed a bit lonely and hard, and I had to draw deeply on my personal resilience.

My career began by working part time in banking, eventually gaining enough skills and experience to move into consulting. My peers knew little of the struggles at home: the countless times the utilities were cut off and I was forced to borrow money for electricity or rent. Sometimes my kids missed out on school excursions and the breakfast club at school provided welcome support on days when there wasn’t enough food in the cupboard.

There were even times I had to access charitable services through wonderful agencies that, ironically, I now find myself sitting in sector meetings with today!

I worked hard often at the expense of my young family. I saw career progression as a mark of my success. For many years, I unconsciously felt of less value than my male peers, and worked twice as hard to ensure motherhood wasn’t ever seen as interfering with my job.

The belief that I was worth less than male peers was partly of my own making but was sadly reinforced by biases I encountered at work. As a result, I made unwise choices to prove I could deliver despite being a young single mother. In hindsight I should have celebrated that it was because of my early life experience that I delivered such determined service to my employers.

In my mid-30s I chose to measure my value through my contribution to building a better world. That reshaped how I would spend time with my expanded family (which now included my husband, my adult twins and my young daughter). This decision opened my eyes to new career choices, and led me to World Vision.

Jill Roche, visiting World Vision projects in Uganda,

A former colleague reminded me recently I’d told him I was leaving to take up my ‘dream job’ at World Vision, and asked how it had turned out. Without a second thought I said it has given me so much more than I ever could have imagined!

Over eight years with World Vision I have heard many stories of young women who have fought so hard to overcome poverty and adversity.  Most recently I met a young single mother from South Sudan who had literally just arrived at refugee settlement in Northern Uganda.  Only 20, she sat calmly holding her children while World Vision staff asked her questions to prepare her and her young family to settle at the camp. Her story filled me with mixed emotions, sadness, and gratitude. We shared a similar start in life as young single mothers but unlike me she wouldn’t have access to formal schooling, social support structures or a secure home. Purely by virtue of geography our lives would be very different and I whispered to my colleague, there but for the grace of God go I.

Women like this have inspired me to appreciate both the challenges and the opportunities that I have had. They remind me to be open about my own experiences to encourage other young women, especially young mothers, to appreciate their worth and recognise the value of carving an unconventional path.

 

Shirantha Perera – Impact Portfolio Manager, India, Sri Lanka & Zambia, World Vision Australia

As a child in living in a male dominated patriarchal society, I always felt that there was something wrong the way it treated women and girls. I found it hard to accept how my mother, who was well qualified to do a professional job, was not allowed by her parents and brothers – simply because it was a shame and not acceptable for women to work and earn an income. I found that the culture in my society was projecting several limits and boundaries on the way my sisters had to behave, act and live.

Then as a young man, I met this girl.

She was born as the eldest daughter of a family of 4 children (3 girls and a boy – the youngest). The dad of the family was the most loving and caring father she could ever imagine in the whole world. To overcome poverty, he left them with the mother behind to find better income in the middle east. He visited them once in 2 years and brought such a joy to their family, especially to her, as the eldest and probably the most favoured child.

She was only 17+ and was preparing for her exams at Grade 10, when she received the news that her loving dad had suddenly passed away in that far away land due to a heart attack, leaving 5 of them without much hope for future. She was devastated and did not know what to do with her mother who was quite helpless with a timid personality. This girl one day decided that she had to do something if the family was to survive. She decided to give up her studies and find a job, thinking that she with her mother and 3 other siblings should continue to achieve the dreams that their dad had for them.

She walked out to find jobs to a world that she was least aware of. She never thought that the world she was walking to find an employment was waiting to devour an innocent beautiful young girl. The culture was a highly male dominant society and considered girls and women were ‘instruments’ for man to use. She could not believe that men she met were not kind and caring like her dad or the loving uncle who were supporting them in every simple way he could. She was compelled to leave several jobs due to harassment she experienced in the offices she worked. She was scared and ashamed for what she had to go through to make a living so that her family could survive. She kept all such incidents a secret, fearing that she may not be able to continue to work and earn.

Finally one day she summoned all her energy, courage and walked towards that horrible fear and beat the man who had tried to molest her, and walked out. Since then she never wavered with her courage to face those males who tried to see her as an instrument for their use. She would have a simple weapon in her handbag as personal security measure and a source of strength (luckily she never had to use it).

When I met her for the first time she was someone who had no faith in men and would do anything to defend women and girls who faced similar situations as she did. By that time she had found courage to face those male dominant forces and secure her rights and earn respect for who she was. She was able to work and earn in par with her skills, capacity and competence. She had become the main breadwinner of her family, helped the younger siblings to continue their education, while supporting her widowed mother.

Today she would look back and recall that those incidents were horrible, full of malice and shame, but were the moments of strength, building her confidence to claim her dignity and worth as a human being. Now she stands for the basic rights of any woman or a girl with such a conviction that women are as equal as any man.

Shirantha visiting World Vision projects.

This story has taken me a number of steps forward in my life as a man to do everything possible to recognise that both woman and man were created in the same image of God and hence equal in every way.

 

Citations:

[1] UNICEF (2017). Is every child counted? Status of Data for Children in the SDGs, p. 54 (https://data.unicef.org/resources/every-child-counted-status-data-children-sdgs/)

[2] UNICEF (2014). Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence against Children, p. 167 (https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_Summary_EN_2_Sept_2014.pdf)

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