Walking in Her Shoes

By Terah Clifford

I really enjoyed the session that dealt with gender inclusivity in peacebuilding. I especially appreciated the vocabulary that was provided that helped clarify a few things: I learned the term ‘gender mainstreaming’, which deconstructed the idea of how to effectively include women in areas that traditionally are gender-segregated and male-dominated. This complemented the session we had the night before that focused on decolonization where we talked about the idea of expanding the circle of people we look to as authorities. Expanding the circle in the context of gender does not just mean expanding merely the size of the circle and letting more women into areas or positions of power and authority. It means expanding the area that the circle covers to include a more diverse set of people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life, including women of all backgrounds. In the same way, gender mainstreaming does not look like just “adding women to the pot and stirring.” Overturning the system must go much deeper than that if it is to permeate all levels and areas of society. It looks like adding the gender lens to every area of policy and interaction and adding gender and women’s issues into the ‘mainstream’ conversation. 

To practise putting on this lens, we all participated in a case simulation. I have always enjoyed simulations and case studies as a pedagogical technique, and the ‘choose your own adventure’ set up of this one was engaging and creative. Our groups put on the lens of female peacebuilders seeking to counteract violent extremist groups in their community. We walked through a series of scenarios and decisions that each led to different results, some good, some not so great. 

I found value in this exercise because I think the visualization and experience of reacting and interacting to consequences is so important. Simulations provide a chance for dialogue and talking through consequences in a way that makes a hypothetical situation feel more real. It is valuable because it shows how the consequences of our actions can play out and the types of big consequences that can result from even small decisions. Even though classroom simulations take place in very controlled and sanitized environments, the lessons they impart are nonetheless valuable. The inclusion of experiencing a new perspective also added to the experience and brought the lesson on gender to life. This exercise made me think about how the idea of looking at things through different lenses could be relevant and helpful in other circumstances as well. While it is impossible to replicate field conditions in a classroom, simulations nonetheless provide useful practice and stimulate interesting dialogue and discussions.