“What good does it do to feed a parrot golden nuggets if it beats its wings against a cage? We want to free ourselves from our cage.” Woman entrepreneur, Hazaribag district, Jharkand, India
For weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this blog. At first I thought I would angrily declare how sick I am having to continue to justify the work we do to reduce gender inequalities and discrimination. I imagined explaining how unbelievably tired I am of having to explain to people who accuse me of changing culture that in fact the work they do in providing new seeds that alters agricultural production, supporting democratic elections where none took place previously, promoting improved sanitation practices, or eliminating corruption was also -ahem- about changing culture. Because most of the work we do in development is about changing culture. It is about reshaping the practices and beliefs that hinder poverty reduction and reduce people’s well-being. It is about introducing better ways of doing the things we’ve always done. Sometimes that means introducing new technologies. Sometimes it’s about changing practices – both of the people we work with and the people for whom we work, at home and abroad.
I imagined writing an impassioned, no-holds-barred proclamation that it is time we lived in a world where women are able to choose the life they wish to lead. That beliefs and practices that discriminate against people because of their race, ethnicity, or sex should be eliminated. In fact, wiped off the face of this earth. That is, to quote a colleague, “we simply cannot be in the 21st century and still live in a world where women are treated like second class citizens.”
However today as I set myself the task of writing I remembered the words of the woman in India, quoted above. Her words are beautiful and painfully poetic. And I feel unable to find a better way to express why it is I want to be part of movement that changes cultural practices.