I was one of the organizers/session leaders of the CHANGE Gender Summit, where CHANGE stands for Creating Humanitarian Awareness for the Necessity of Gender Equity, which was held at the Liger Leadership Academy campus on the 26th (English) and 27th (Khmer) of January. The summit was created within an exploration group called Gender Equity where a group of 12 students with two facilitators discussed and created a blog about gender related issues such as violence, stereotypes, women and men involvement in the issues.
The summit consists of four different sections under the theme of “Empower Change while Preserving Culture”; the topics were chosen based of off what we discussed and learned about in class which are language usage, economic, culture and power. These four sessions were led by eight students, two in each, where guided different activities and discussions related to the topics. There were two who was making sure the event run smoothly and was responsible for contacting schools and the other two were pulling out participants (high school students) from each session to ask about their opinion with questions such as:
- Being a woman, what are the pressure that is being put on you?
- Have you ever discuss these gender issues with your parents?
- If not, are you willing too?
- If yes, how did they react?
Another student and I led the Language Usage session; we led discussions and activities about stereotypes, the LGBTQ+ community, the connotations and denotations of words such as girls and gay. To me, language is very important when it comes to describing something or rather someone. Different words are used to put labels on people and to differentiate all genders (LGBTQ+) but when they’re absent, one’s identity might be ignored as well. In Khmer culture, there are one word to describe LGBTQ+ people, ខ្ទើយ (khteuy),which is very disappointing and sad because those people couldn’t find a way to express their identity besides, their sexualities are not the same; we can’t use just one word to describe them all. During the sessions, both in Khmer and English, there were moments where I was really impressed with the participants understanding of gender equity and that it’s not a women’s issues, it’s an issue for everyone. Not only females are struggling to fight for their rights to enter any jobs they’re passionate about that are seen to be “males’ jobs” (science, technology..) but males also face those problems due to the fact that they’re restricted by society, which is us, to pursue careers that are seen as “females’ jobs” (ballet dancer, beauty artist…).
In conclusion, at the end of the summit, I realized how different people have different opinions about gender equity because in my mind, the idea that people have the same opinion as me that everyone should fight for equity and that it is an everyone’s issue. This realization was really important to me because living at Liger limits me from outside world, although it’s an amazing place, I don’t get to see how scary it is out there, and that one day when I graduate from here to walk my own paths I’d probably have to face and approach those who have different opinions from me regarding gender equity.
“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
http://changeforequity.ligeracademyblog.org/ → link to CHANGE blog