Monday, March 09, 2009

The Power of Now, the Power of Partnership

Speaking at the Gender, Sex, and the Power to Survive workshop last Friday, CARE Executive Director Helene Gayle asked those present to consider what could be done for women and girls that gives them agency, capacity, and the power to survive. The panel of researchers present shared their findings on HIV and AIDS prevention among women in sex work. Their research took place over a two-year period in multiple countries.

The workshop was fascinating and I appreciated the obvious knowledge and experience of the panelists who had actually been in the field conducting the research. They spoke with concern for the women with whom they had work. Their wish was for them to be able to make decisions based on what was best for them not only in the present, but in the future as well.

The research conducted was, purposely, a narrow study of women sex workers and what influences their choices about condom usage with their clients. The issue of sex work is complex. Some women choose to become sex workers and some women have that choice made for them. As I type, “some women choose to become sex workers” I am arguing internally with myself. Choice is a concept I think most of us can’t begin to imagine when faced with certain situations and cultural backgrounds.

The research findings showed that the majority of sex workers studied placed a higher priority on present days needs versus future needs. If requiring condom usage meant less money or no clients, most women chose to forgo the requirement. Who can blame sex workers for choosing present day needs over a future that they may or may not to get to experience? Today they have bills to pay. Today they have children to feed.

There were many dissenting voices in attendance and, sadly, many of the disapproving were religiously affiliated workshop attendees. They questioned the study’s purpose and why the money wasn’t used to help the women out of sex work. I was stunned at their rudeness and lack of understanding. Instead of condemning the study, why not see what it has to teach NGOs of the secular and sacred variety?

There is a strong need for NGOs like CARE and faith-based organizations to work together, sharing resources and social capital. We need each other. Faith-based friends, abstinence only education is not the answer. Let’s focus our fervor on partnership. In the words of a CARE researcher who participated in the panel discussion, “There are no easy answers. Invest in people. Invest in understanding. Commit for the long term.”

4 Comments:

Anonymous Lia said...

Argh. I like that you're "inching," but I hate that you say that the women "have no selves." I guess that the statement from your class is fine if you say it about yourself, but if someone says it about you, they take away your agency.

I love the statement about the NGO's, though, and I love you!

4:13 AM  
Anonymous suzanah said...

wait, wait, wait . . . when did i say someone didn't have a self? is it my jeanne stevenson-moessner quote? if that is what you think i was saying then i need to re-work that paragraph. i meant - living for today means a lot to someone who thinks they may not have a tomorrow. if the choice is providing and surviving today or protecting for a future you may or may not have - -- today wins. right? dr. moessner was lecturing about women who are always giving of themselves - not setting boundaries - specifically in a ministerial concept. the praises of self-sacrifice . . . ahh, it made sense to me last night - also, i removed a paragraph i had written about sex workers and violence because i realized it was from the workshop after the care workshop. the second workshop research showed that women would rather have unprotected sex than risk violence. that is when i added the you can't be a self-sacrificer if you don't have a self to sacrifice quote . . .

ok, i'm going to remove it because it obviously is not reading as i intended. thanks for pointing that out.

i repeat - i didn't not mean to imply that anyone doesn't have a self!!!!!

6:33 AM  
OpenID leanngjohns said...

wait? Am I reading the original version or the edited version??? I don't get the quote either. help me. I think this is really good conversation and it makes me angry that once again it's the faith based folks who are being exclusive in their ability to offer love... aka "only on our terms"

9:44 PM  
Anonymous suzanah said...

leann
if you are reading it from your "feed" you might be reading the original post. click on the actual blog and i hope it will update for you. i need to write a part two to this post. i had a very interesting conversation yesterday that needs to be recorded.

education, love, support, love, healthcare, love, economic development, love . . . love.

8:00 AM  

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