Since becoming a tandem of GlobalMatch, Anna and Christopher have been on an
enriching journey towards rethinking gender equality from different cultural perspectives
and an attempted (re)definition of masculinity - and their learning curve has been steep!
Having been introduced to the programme by friends and classmates respectively,
they are surprised to what extent they were able to connect on a personal and eye-to
eye level, all the while sharing their experiences and ideas on a journey of intercultural
discovery, based on their different backgrounds:
Christopher from Uganda contributes a perspective from the Global South and Anna her
experiences from growing up in the North, more specifically Poland, now studying in the UK.
Deeply engaged in their previous projects – Christopher had been working a lot on topics such as women empowerment and gender equality for a local NGO in Kabale, while Anna had started writing her Master’s thesis in International Development – they both started the GlobalMatch journey with precise ideas in mind of what they wanted to work on as a project. Thus, one of the more challenging parts (and likewise probably the reason why their exchange finally became such a success for them) was to step back from their own prior expectations and to come up with a new project idea that worked for both themselves and their – in the beginning still unfamiliar – tandem partner.
When asked how they managed to agree to a compromise, their simple solution was based on open communication: When they started talking (usually on a weekly basis), they would not always know where exactly the conversation was going, and then out of discussing everything and anything eventually came the idea.
Agreeing on a topic finally wasn’t even that difficult, as most of their chats, after touching pretty much any direction, would reconvene on a single one that had
been an affair of the heart to both of them for a while:
Toxic masculinity and how redefining the role and “characteristics” of men in today’s world could help advance questions of gender equality.
In one of their favourite sessions, the challenge was to collect opinions on their
chosen issue among their private surroundings and the feedback from their interviews
was unambiguous: the majority of friends and family turned out to be highly
engaged in discussing masculinity. Within the frame of the project, many male friends
started to open up and share their personal opinions and experiences which then led
Anna and Christopher to the conclusion that a space for such open and honest
communication might be needed on a more regular basis.
With the initiation of their online blog “UNSAID” a space like this was created: Not only
the tandem wants to inform people and give food for thought through articles and
insights. The blog’s purpose in particular lies in collaboration, in gathering and
exchanging ideas – ranging from guest posts engaging people from other networks to express themselves, to being in touch with men’s initiatives and organizations sharing their perspective (for example at Anna’s college). The blog aims at reaching people who haven’t really dealt with the topic before. No previous knowledge is required, no particular views are assumed. The space is explicitly open to both men and women. Its purpose is not to give defined answers to questions like “what does it need to be a man in 21st century”. What it does is bring people together and inspire them to reflect and discuss.
The impact Anna and Christopher want to have is in building relationships (between men and men as well as men and women), in questioning norms of our society and in rethinking how we relate to one another. With the objectives of GlobalMatch in mind, it’s notably the intercultural discourse that is of interest: Are there differences in how gender is perceived in different regions of the world? Are people, are men facing the same challenges when not in conformity with social standards? What are these social standards in which part of the world?
So far, they have experienced that while the contexts differ significantly, the fundamental psychological patterns may be shared: Citing the example of reluctant health-care seeking in men around the world, where behavioural patterns seem to be quite similar, the question arises whether it’s the same mechanisms in place such as unwillingness to show weakness. More in-depth reflections on these and other questions are treated in the blog itself!
Going back to its initiators, when asked about the project’s impacts on their personal growth and development, Christopher described the writing process in itself as intense: while learning a lot personally, it is not something you do solely for yourself, but you need to find ways to express your thoughts in a clear and simplified way, toning down your language so people who are new to the issue will understand – a process demanding another level of consciousness as well as writing skills. Then there is the aspect of learning how to manage a blog and establish a social media presence, all the while making it attractive to follow by embedding multi media contents. As concerns Anna, she was most inspired by all the interesting conversations she probably wouldn’t have had otherwise, next to refining her communication skills, for instance by becoming more patient in consequence of communicating under difficult circumstances (internet).
As a tandem, they connected in a deep friendly relationship, and grew together by distributing their roles on an eye-to-eye level. In writing, they either work together on articles or give each other feedback on their separate drafts.
The whole project thoroughly fulfilled their initial expectations: Anna was able to put into practice some of the theoretical issues she had been working on in her courses, and Christopher got more exposure engaging with people on an intercultural level which was an important mission to him as a life-long learner, all the while launching a project of his own.
The Global Match team is looking forward to accompany Anna and Christopher on their interactive journey towards discovering and/or redefining men’s role in today’s society and by doing so having an impact on feminist activism on the other side. It is a common fight for gender equality and we can’t wait to see which direction it will go, with more articles and discussions coming up in their blog the next weeks !