Seven months sure goes by quickly. My internship has come to an end and I’ve come a long way from when I first arrived: unsure of where I was going to start with my mandate, the new intern trying to find my way in this new environment.
My first day of work a male co-worker came into my office and said to me “Just so you know, I don’t believe in all this gender stuff”. Well then, it’s going to be a long seven months, I thought to myself. I knew that doing gender equality work in a male dominated society wouldn’t be easy, and I certainly encountered some challenges. During my first big gender workshop the discussion got very heated around the notion that men and women are not meant to be equal because the bible says so. During my time in Ghana, I have found myself in many a frustrating conversation about gender.
But I appreciated those moments because they challenged me to find new ways of relating gender equality to the context I was working in; and if my work caused people to think about gender equality in ways that they didn’t before, I consider myself successful. The upside to those challenges is that they made the pleasant surprises even better. When people really seemed to “get” it, was when I felt most rewarded for my work.
The other most rewarding part of my mandate has been working with a gender committee made up of YMCA members from around Ghana. The group of women will continue working as advocates for women in the Ghana YMCA and towards implementation of the gender equality policy. During our last meeting, where I was supposed to be making sure they were equipped with the skills they need to continue the work, I was the one learning from their experience and knowledge.
Although interns have been driving gender work with the Ghana YMCA for the past two years, there is no shortage of well-informed, passionate and capable women ready to make sure the organization meets it’s gender equality goals; and I feel privileged to have worked with and learned from these women. At the end of my mandate, I can say that not only have I made progress in terms of my mandate, but I found a home in Ghana and a family at the Ghana YMCA.
– Camaro West, Gender Advisor, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Ghana 2012