Being An Ally
February 5th 2016. Long-term volunteer, CJ Fritz, writes on his experience in Léogâne with four-year partner GOALS Haiti.
Last week in Leogane, Haiti, I helped run an ASK For Choice program for the first time. ASK For Choice is a CAC program dedicated to gender equity, and involves discussing the problem of gender inequity with groups of only women as well as mixed groups.
Heading to our Monday morning session with only the female participants I was nervous. When we got to the field I was pacing back and forth, trying to figure out how to go about coaching in this completely new scenario. As a male coach, how do I speak with a group of female coaches about gender equity? How can I pretend to understand the position that they are coming from? Would it be better if Nora and Emily just ran this session, and I sat out?
As I busied myself fretting about how to handle the situation I realized something; this isn’t about trying to be on the same team, it’s about trying to be an ally. We don’t need to share the same starting point if we are both aiming for the same finishing point.
As the week progressed I began to think more and more about why I want to be an ally.
I have a younger sister who entered high school back in September. She is intelligent, active, is incredibly funny and excels especially in keeping her older brothers’ egos in check.
I choose to be an ally because of her. It scares me to think that she might be told not to play the sport that she loves because sports are for boys. It scares me that she could make only 70 cents to every dollar that a man with the same job makes. And it scares me that she could be pressured into not doing the things that she loves to do because they aren’t “things that women should do.”
But what scares me more than anything is that there are millions of girls and women living in countries with far more inequity who deserve the same chance to achieve that which the boys and men around them are afforded.
As the week progressed, we heard some fantastic and inspiring things from the women with whom we were working. They were motivated and prepared to fight incredibly hard for their rights.
The women in the group gave me hope for change in Leogane, but we didn’t get the same fierce support of equity from the men in the group. It is a great start to have such a motivated group of women who are ready for change, but they can’t go it alone.
In congress, bills don’t become laws without people willing to work across party lines. Two improvising actors have to work together to make a scene flow. Men and women have to work together to bring us closer to gender equity.
By the end of the week, we began seeing some signs of progress. The men in the group seemed less defensive than they had at first, and the group began to come up with some ways they can start making change in the present.
If there is a rock you want moved and two people tie ropes around it and pull in opposite directions, no matter how hard either person pulls, or how badly they want the rock to move, it will not budge. It’s up to us to decide; are we going to pull in the same direction, or do we want to play tug-of-war forever?