It has been years since I had entered the world of climate change where people talk of the Global South and the Global North, the two sides of development in the world geography: developing and the developed world. We professionals, we become part of it, based on our skin colour, and geographical location (consciously or unconsciously). Our mode of thinking, well it comes to play some importance time to time.
I have often been taken as too Southern-ist in some discussions, while some have accused me at times of not being enough Southern-ist. I have tried to keep the middle ground, the one that sees both sides of the story, till I have lost my patience recently, seeing that colour and the geographical location have at most times turned a token on a panel, or a representation for a grant application.
You see the ever so caring grant applications putting the face of a brown human on their report. Addressing the needs of the vulnerable they call it. Capacity building plays a role too, if it is an eternal process for applying for funding. The South needs their capacity built. Apparently all are incompetent most of the time, unless to serve the purpose of funding applications.
I have been frustrated many times of late. The way the brown skin, a woman of brown skin fills a slot on a panel to fit that gender balance, the geographical balance, and then not to be given the due value in a context where decisions are being made. We speak of participatory processes, set up superficially a list of meetings to say a programme is as inclusive as it possibly could be, and promote the multi-stakeholder engagement while internal decisions are driven with no voice for those who are supposed to be the focus of work implemented. Where are those values you seem to be harping on?
I have watched sexual harassment happening in the Southern NGOs, not paid attention to, ignored when reported, and in turn developing a cycle of belief that it is not being worth reported. I have watched old men of repute squeezing interns bums, the horrified girls reporting of the happening to the seniors they trust, and the old man squeezing bums seen at the recurring conference every year. No actions taken, no questions asked.
We talk of saving the world, saving the values, social justice, when we work in a world half the slogans are hypocrisy, and faces and people are mere tokens for promoting one’s cause. I have watched colleagues leave in silence, without saying what they feel to those who need to be told about the horrors of their behaviour. I have seen many talented and passionate humans walk away from their work, frustrated and having had enough of what has been happening.
Me? I have had it for a long while. The sexual harassment that is not recorded, the way the southern folk are habitually synonymised with not being able to promote their own cause and needing a mouth-piece from the North to promote their interests, or just being a decorative element on a panel to show inclusivity and gender balance.
I write this because I have seen enough, and watching in silence is not the solution. If one is walking out of a system, then they need to make them feel heard and not step down in silence.
We speak of climate justice and social justice. I think it’s time we set up a library of dictionaries so that we do get a grasp of what we refer to as “justice”!
“I am brown, a woman, and have my own voice.”