Tearing down hetero-normativity and claiming new space for sexual and gender diversity was a common thread throughout the three-day training. There was an atmosphere of unprecedented openness, interest, and inquisitiveness. Personal stories were shared and became an inspiration to others.
"Sexual relationships change significantly when men and women leave their Gender Box. It means you start investigating, discovering and questioning, as roles are no longer fixed"Rachel PloemTechnical Advisor Women's Health International Programmes
The Gender Box was the absolute heart of the intended transformation. For a day and a half, jointly, they reflected on a culture that gives both girls and boys different messages. Explorations of how these alternative messages have a lasting impact into adulthood, as well as what happens if you want to leave the Gender Box were made? Sexual relationships change significantly when men and women leave their Gender Box. It means you start investigating, discovering and questioning, as roles are no longer fixed. Sex is now more about pleasure and interconnection. Go and experiment: it is fun for everyone!
The session that focused on providing support in a process of change was impressive. Discussions took place on how women historically, and predominantly, learned to listen, without bias, and the often complex solidarity between women. One of the main conclusions was that men should show more interest in so-called women's issues, such as responsibility for contraception, understanding menstruation, puberty, pregnancy and menopause. And how contributing to housekeeping by men is not a matter of privilege, but simply a responsibility. Women were invited to become more curious and explorative towards men in order to better understand their behaviour.
"It is everyone's responsibility to address undesirable behaviour, to support the victim, and to actively contribute to a culture without sexism and discrimination"Rachel PloemTechnical Advisor Women's Health International Programmes
Women's rights remain crucial, also within a Gender Transformative Approach. Addressing sexual harassment, which is very common in Bangladesh - also within NGOs-, is key. An important focus is to ask ourselves continuously what makes it so difficult for women (and sometimes also men) to address sexual harassment. Why this behaviour is unacceptable at all times, and how to prevent it. It is everyone's responsibility to address undesirable behaviour, to support the victim, and to actively contribute to a culture without sexism and discrimination. This should be guided by strong leadership and by having supportive policies and structures in place. After all, silence is never neutral, but can be an explicit form of complicity.
Shifts and transformations about gender roles are ongoing, with benefits for everyone, including greater acceptance of someone’s gender - and of a sexually diverse community. At the end of the training insight into each other's socialisation had increased, which resulted in more empathy and space for new possibilities.
It was, yet again, impressive to witness the possibilities of a three-day training with a group of people that already went through numerous SRHR training courses and processes. Let these change makers continue moving forward. We have nothing but trust in these amazing people.