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A tale of two cultures

Yes I went there... have you read Dickens' book 'A Tale of Two Cities'?

But I'm not speaking metaphorically throughout this blog on resurrection, i.e. Dr. Manette being freed from prison in the beginning of the book; or Carton being spiritually resurrected at the end, through his sacrifice. Nor has this got anything to do with war, or the French Revolution.

This blog is my take on being a Pacific woman, a professional; and merging my Melanesian culture with that of my employer, so that I could be the best version of myself on a professional and personal basis.

I was born into a patriarchal society, that has by virtue of my profession, morphed into a constantly evolving idea of a Pacific woman's feminist identity within that patriarchy.

It wasn't until recently that I realised this concept had a name: coined 'intersectionality' by Kymberlè Crenshaw in 1989. The definition of intersectionality is " analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege".

In fact there's quite a lot of literature on this. A lot of it is uncomfortable, and a lot of it is confronting.

If you're after a novel, have you read 'White Tears / Brown Scars'?

Or if you're after published works (and there's a lot, since the term was coined), there's Incorporating Intersectionality in Public Policy: A Systematic Literature Review (you might need to check if you can access this though).

This intersectionality concept Kimberlè Crenshaw describes in her thesis, 'Mapping the Margins' is translated but not fully contextualised in our Pacific context.

Ceridwen Spark's article on PNG women 'Two different worlds' has some familiarities but does not necessarily translate to our particular context, despite the Melanesian similarities; as opposed to Crenshaw's depiction of intersectionality from a Black woman's perspective.

But they are both still very relevant.

As a young Pacific woman working in development, I face the double disadvantage of being discriminated against, for my gender and my age. I spend longer convincing counterparts (particularly my fellow Solomon Islanders) that I am as competent as my older, male or white colleagues.

Research indicates addressing gender-biased social norms is crucial.

Removing discriminatory practices and addressing social norms amplifies the positive effects of gender-responsive measures.

Not only would this improve human rights but it would also help promote women's economic empowerment.

Changing perceptions is key to me.

Youth brings different perspectives to the table. Diversity and inclusion are exactly what makes development succesful - because all voices have been brought to the table, and heard out.

Also, as a woman in development I also face the 'race-blind card', working in a space that attributes expertise with race.

Coming from a background where politeness is a cultural norm, that sometimes means equally competent Pacific colleagues who have received the exact same education as Western colleagues/counterparts, are overlooked in preference of an advisor who is [usually] flown in.

This sometimes means the aid dollar - rather than being used for good in communities where strong research (IWDA, World Bank) indicates the 'bottom up' approach returns better results - is used to remunerate advisors who are statistically two to three times more expensive to recruit and mobilise, than a Pacific expert equivalent on the ground.

I intend to go on further studies to explore the idea of a Pacific woman's space in the concept of intersectionality. I also intend to explore where that space sits on the wave of feminism, in further detail, within my own culture as a Melanesian/Micronesian and in the society of my upbringing's (Melanesian) patriarchal frameworks.

That may mean working within these existing patriarchal frameworks to change perceptions and positively challenge the unspoken status quo that women are subordinate to men.
I'm okay with that!

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