Thursday 18th June – 7 months, 2 days
If it had been any other week, I would have taken a few days off to be able to unpack properly. Instead I’ve tried to do it in bits between work because it’s been busier than usual. This was mainly due to the CEDAW focus group discussions we’ve been having. Now I’m at the end of the week and on a day off (yay), I think it was worth it because the discussion groups went really, really well.
In another context or country, it might have been overkill – these discussions were to prepare the delegation for their mock session with UNIFEM (which is happening next week), which is to prepare for the *real* session with the UN CEDAW Committee in New York in July. However, this is Timor’s first appearance; it was a chance for everyone to think about the information they need for the mock session; it was a chance to practise being comfortable answering in English; it was a chance to think about the kind of questions they might be asked. And so it helps them use their time with UNIFEM better, and then hopefully by the time they get to New York, they feel as confident as possible.
It also helps iron out potential embarrassing moments. I’ve commented in other entries how I appreciate working with Timorese men and women on gender issues, because many of them are receptive to different ideas, even if their own default set of ideas and assumptions tends to be more sexist than, say, mine.* We had one of those moments where one of the gender advisers running the discussion said ‘Now, do you think it is discriminatory for an interviewer to ask a woman, does her husband mind if she works outside the home?’
I felt a bit sorry for them when we posed these kind questions; people tend to look quizzically at us, trying to work out the correct answer from our faces. They know what they might say, but we are looking for a specific answer and they want to give *our* right answer, not theirs.
Anyway, every other time we did this they got it ‘right’ (do women get the same pay as men, should women and men work in different industries, etc), but this time they all said tentatively ‘No... No, I think this is ok’. So we had an interesting discussion, trying to explain why the four gender advisers felt differently. I tried the tack ‘What about if an interviewer asked a man ‘Does your wife mind you working outside the home?’ but I think it didn’t quite make sense. That was the point, but I couldn’t quite explain why the other way wasn’t ok.
- I have no real superiority in this regard. As I said, at some stressful point of packing last week, I might work in gender equality but I still want a man to take my bed apart and put it back together, because that is a man job! O deer we all have an inner princess, I guess.