Putting Gender Back On My Agenda

I’ve always loved the feel of raindrops on my skin, and when my hair is a crazy tangle of wind-danced anarchy, I feel my spirits soar.

Storm-tossed

Driving back to the office this afternoon following a series of meetings in Durban, a storm (which never quite fulfilled its dramatic promise) was brewing: delightful cross-winds gusted through the open windows of my Ranger, and my right hand danced in the light rain beyond the shelter of the vehicle. I had the volume turned up high with my ‘2014’ playlist of music, which includes songs such as Samuel Miller’s ‘Stepping Out’ (filmed in Cape Town),

and I found within me a powerful sense of clarity, purpose, and joy.

In September last year Karen Kapp, a manager and life coach at Juiced Strategies, asked me a deceptively simple question: ‘What is your dream?’

I was brought up short, and initially quite surprised that I – who spends a fair amount of time prompting others to ask themselves similar questions – drew a complete blank. Karen, alongside her colleague Darren, was working with all the members of our Management Team on a process which included a strengths assessment, three individual life coaching sessions, and a team building day, all sponsored for our Non-Profit Organisation by Juiced. Her question really couldn’t have come at a better time, and after our first session I emailed my friend Pixie in London saying,

“I had my first strength assessment meeting today. My ‘top themes’ were:

1. Input: People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

2. Intellection: People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

3. Positivity: People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

4. Learner: People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

5. Developer: People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.

Now I am supposed to think about what my ‘big dream’ for my life is before I meet her again in two weeks. And I suddenly realise I don’t have any – I have no idea where I’m heading with my life, my career, anything….

I will be doing some intensive processing and mind-mapping over the coming days. However, after reading an article a friend send me by Alan Bissett entitled ‘My Feminist Self’, one thing I have been wondering is if I should re-focus on gender work. The day I left for London I met with a really interesting man who works with an organisation in Cape Town called MOSAIC (symbolic for abused people to put the broken pieces of their lives together and create better lives for themselves) – a training, service and healing centre for women. And it made me wonder… with all my gender studies research, and my passion for helping those in need, maybe I should re-focus on that going forward? Maybe it isn’t economic or community development work I should be doing, but – especially since I live in a country with one of the highest number of rapes in the world, and growing gender-based violence – in playing my part to help heal women, gain a better understanding of the link between rape and HIV, and bring positive change in gender relations?”

This launch-point led me into online research, shifting reading patterns, and connecting conversations, all of which led in turn to a meeting on Monday with Janine Hicks, a Commissioner for Gender Equality, which provided me with precisely what I had been searching for: a concise, articulate, and insightful overview of the political structures and context of gender within South Africa, the current focal areas, impending legislation, and critical issues, as well as the local NGO context. On top of this, she has subsequently provided me with reading material, links, and email introductions to a range of relevant stakeholders. It was also thanks to her that I walked through the door to Agenda Feminist Media today, met one of the editors, and brought home a pile of journals that will provide me with fascinating reading matter for months to come, as well as prompting a further brief conversation with my CEO at work about my fascination with looking at the intersections between gender-based violence and HIV, which we have agreed to discuss in detail during my Performance Appraisal in the coming weeks.

Even as I write, in the calm of a late evening, I can feel excitement bubbling happily in my chest. Surrounded by feminist journals, having spent the evening dreaming and researching, I am in my element. The future seems full of endless possibilities for meaningful engagement with issues that truly evoke my passion, stimulate my intellect, and encourage me to step forward boldly to find a firmer shape for the new dreams that are starting to emerge.

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10 thoughts on “Putting Gender Back On My Agenda

    1. Thanks Peter! Yes indeed: and I think it’s important for us to remember to occasionally ask such questions of both ourselves and those in our lives. It’s been pouring with rain here today, and I’ve been thinking of you in England, and hoping the floodwaters are somewhat under control!

  1. I love this! I have been thinking so much lately (and started putting down some words) about realigning the Self with passions and dreams… and then I read this! 🙂 So great to find connection yet again in our experiences. All the best in exploring these (very commendable) dreams!

    1. I do love the way our thoughts and experiences have seemed woven of similar threads at time: it’s always wonderfully connecting and strangely reassuring. I hope everything is going well in your new venture – do touch base when you feel ready to share your reflections!

  2. Sorry to have been absent, Laurel. I am amazed and so thrilled to see how far you have traveled on so many levels since I first came upon your blog … your move back to South Africa has obviously been transforming and revealing for you … and continues to be so. Love and hugs, Diane

    1. Ah Diane, no need to apologise – I have been so enjoying watching your literary success and all the energy you have been pouring in there! Like any comfortable and lasting friendship, I think that periods of silence when our focus in elsewhere for a time doesn’t detract at all from the pleasure of reconnection, and you’ve always been very tolerant of my disappearances from cyber-space 🙂

      Thank you so much for this reflection: it is often hard to see the changes when lost in the small, every-day battles, so your perspective is helpful in reminding me that I have, indeed, traveled a log way 🙂

  3. Friends in silence are still friends … as we know through love that holds true over great distances of time and space, even between life and death. We are influenced every day by what is not physically in our lives, I think. XO ♥

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