Gender Equality Blog
Strong and graceful women whom we should admire, did not get that way because things worked out. They got that way, because things went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways, on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are superheroes!
The town of Ogies is nestled in the heart of Mpumalanga Province, South Africa’s coal capital. The drive from Johannesburg passed coal-fired power plants and mines takes an hour and a half with the faint twinge of smoke up your nostrils. Driving into Ogies, gusts of murky air hit you head-on. You are now engulfed by the dust from the 15 coal mines surrounding the town. You also spot the menacing construction site of the mega coal-fired power plant Kusile belonging to the national energy utility Eskom. If (or when) completed, it will transmit 4800 MW of power, making it one of the top five biggest plants in the world and the biggest in South Africa apart from its counterpart Medupi. With that instant of climate-induced depression, comes clarity on why Ogies was chosen to host the first ever energy and climate justice camp for women; it’s a perfect setting to ground the lived reality of women in dirty modern South Africa.
It’s a mistake to think that indigenous societies are monolithic, unchangeable. We assimilate behaviours like other cultures. We were doing this long before Europeans arrived. Adopting new customs does not mean turning our back on tradition.
In 1846, five leaders of the Tsilhqot’in Nation in British Columbia made their way to meet with British colonial authorities in what they believed were peace talks after they had killed some British workers who had entered their land without permission. Instead, when the leaders reached the colonial authorities they were arrested, and subsequently tried and hanged. Like much of First Nations’ history in Canada, we are not taught this story in school.
When I started working as the first dedicated Gender Advisor at CAFOD nine years ago I wondered what it would be like - working on the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights in a Catholic organisation. Well, I can tell you this - it wasn’t always easy. The term ‘gender’ was then and continues to be now a hot potato, sparking heated debates in every gender training I had delivered over these years, both in Europe and in the many countries CAFOD’s partner organisations work in.