Owen Blakka Ellis
Howdy, peeps! What a gwaan with you? Or to be more pointed, what's currently popping in your box? Me, I'm here 'boxing' you from the beautiful Spice Isles Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean.
And although I'm admittedly having somewhat of an exhilarating time, I'm not on a vacation. In fact, now that I think about it, it's really interesting how many parts of th world I've visited in my over half-century of existence, and I have never ever really had a vacation. Vacation? I don't even know wah name so - but that is a different 'bickle' for a different box.
I'm really here for work. And I have often heard that if you work on the stuff you're really passionate about, then work won't feel like work. Frankly, that is true for me. This is still work, though - definitely difficult, but relevant and rewarding work around gender.
Yes, friends. I am here engaged in discussions and activities around one of my favourite topics, intellectually and emotionally grappling around in the old gender box. I'm enjoying a vibrant and vital learning experience as one of several participants in a training-of-trainers programme for Caribbean gender advocates.
The participants are diverse. We are men and women from a fairly wide range of ages, and from very different social, spiritual ,and professional backgrounds - artists, activists, attorneys, teachers, social workers, and more - from about nine different countries in the region. What we all share is a commitment to and a common interest in expanding our understanding of the complexities, contradictions, and manifestations that arise from the different gender boxes that we inherit and inhabit.
So, we are involved in some exciting interrogations and critical reflections on social justice, power, privilege, and subconscious biases. We are exploring key concepts related to gender and the idea of gender equality. We're also analysing ideas around masculinities and femininities. Yes, the pluralisation is deliberate because in case you never realized it, there is a range of different expressions of masculinity and femininity depending on generational, geographical, cultural, and other factors.
The overarching purpose of our work, of course, is to contribute to the important objective of achieving gender justice and eradicating all forms of gender-based violence. And, as you and I [and all of us who're willing to admit the truth] know, gender-based violence is a serious problem all over the world. And whether it takes the form of bullying, harassment, domestic abuse, or rape, etc., the victims are mostly women and girls.
The four-day training workshop has been organised by United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women - also known as UN Women - in collaboration with the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives and is part of the 'HeForShe' initiative. What name so? Well, according to a handout on the initiative, HeForShe is a global solidarity movement for gender equality that engages men and boys to work in partnership with women and girls as advocates and stakeholders to break the silence, raise their voices, and take action for the achievement of gender equality.
The movement aims at enabling men to identify with the issues of gender equality and to recognize the important role we can play towards ending the persistent and pervasive inequality faced by women and girls worldwide.
Yeah, bro! Woman is our mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. So I'm definitely a 'he' who's proud to be standing in solidarity and working in harmony with 'she'. Wah yuh a say? Yuh nuh come join hands with 'we'?