Despite using RCA for 2 years and working on my biases, I still have some.
This last study gave me an opportunity to stay with a woman village head. I was keen to know more about this woman who had been in the news. Everyone called her Ibu Desa (Mother of the village). How difficult had it been for Ibu Desa to become village leader in a patriarchal society? Sounds like bias to you? But, I was not aware.
I spent quality time with her, and she told me about the elections, her role and work. She was very busy returning at midnight from an important meetings and yet she calling the village staff to finish reports despite being Sunday. She is very impressive.
Then I met her husband. A simple and quite man. On the second day we chatted and what he said taught me a very important lesson on gender equity, which is more important than any gender workshop that I ever attended. He had planned to run for village head himself seven years ago. But he decided to withdraw because he needed to earn from fish pond cultivation for his family. He then proposed his wife to become a village head even though some might object. He said “if woman has potential but is not given opportunity, I think her soul will not happy, she will not be a happy woman. She will feel imprisoned, I see strength in my wife and I decided to support her”.
Their daughter joined our conversation, and giggled when her father told me that many times there was no meal in the house as Ibu Desa had meetings until late. “It is easy, we will just run to my mother house and eat there. Domestics work is not a big deal” He said.
I’m sure this quite husband was not there when Emma Watson spoke at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, 20 September 2014 saying “Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend you a formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too”. This husband had given the opportunity to his wife years before Emma Watson delivered her speech on the UN stage.
I looked back on the days before the study, keen to meet Ibu Desa, the empowered woman village head. But the gender understanding that I got was not from her but from her husband.
The strength of RCA is the non-stop learning process. I (again) made mistakes by still retaining unconscious assumptions and bias. I need to hear more of men voices to learn about gender equity I think.