Je suis un peu incrédule sur le fait que je vais avoir une crise de « chocs des cultures » en rentrant au Canada, dans moins d’une semaine. Je n’ai pas eu de « chocs des cultures » en arrivant ici, alors pourquoi en aurais-je un à mon retour ?
Ne pensez pas que je n’y crois pas, car ça m’est arrivé auparavant, même à revenir d’expériences prolongées très différentes ailleurs au Canada. J’ai l’impression que Lima et Ottawa ne sont simplement pas aussi différents que ce qu’on pourrait penser.
Les deux sont des grandes villes, malgré que Lima fasse 10 fois la population d’Ottawa. Lima Centre, c’est-à-dire, en dehors des asentamientos humanos (un terme qui est utilisé ici car « bidonvilles » est très stigmatisé), ressemble à n’importe quelle ville nord-américaine : des publicités, des transports en commun, des rues, des jardins, des maisons, des parcs, etc. Le trafic est horrible, il y a des chats et chiens sans laisse partout et la vente ambulante est beaucoup plus commune, mais ce n’est pas suffisant pour faire un choc des cultures.
Quant à la culture en tant que telle, oui c’est différent. Très différent. La façon dont les gens interagissent, les mots utilisés, les blagues, les traditions, etc. À bien y penser, je suis venue à la conclusion que j’ai dû m’habituer à la façon de faire latino-américaine avant même de venir ici. Peut-être est-ce pour ça que je n’ai pas senti le choc ? J’ai fait une mineur en espagnol, et les cours nous apprennent pleins d’aspects de la culture espagnole et latino-américaine, donc j’étais déjà familière avec plusieurs choses. J’ai aussi déjà vécu en Amérique Latine auparavant. Peut-être serait-ce l’explication ?
Ou alors, je pourrais avoir des dons pour m’adapter à n’importe quelle situation. Il me fut très facile de m’établir une routine, puis la briser selon les circonstances, la ré-établir, puis la briser, etc.
Enfin, nous verrons bien lorsque je rentrerai au Canada si le Pérou me manquera beaucoup. Ce qui est certain, c’est que la seule chose qui me manque de la maison, ce sont mes amis et ma famille, rien de plus.
Je suis un peu incrédule sur le fait que je vais avoir une crise de « chocs des cultures » en rentrant au Canada, dans moins d’une semaine. Je n’ai pas eu de « chocs des cultures » en arrivant ici, alors pourquoi en aurais-je un à mon retour ?
Gender equality is an area of development that has always been of interest to me. In fact, it is a field that I aspire to work in eventually. Before coming to Vietnam, I knew the country had its problems with a son preference and the implications that follow from this preference. However, after living in the country for 2.5 months, it became apparent that the gender dynamic was more complex in a way that set Vietnam apart from other countries in South Asia.
One of the more common ways to measure the son preference in a country is through the sex ratio at birth. The natural sex ratio at birth is 1.05 males for every female which, in turn, implies that naturally, women give birth to more boys than girls. As women live longer than men for social and biological reasons, this imbalance is then corrected in the later stages of life. For various countries in Asia, prenatal and postnatal tampering have made this ratio so skewed that demographers such as Amartya Sen have predicted that over 100 million women are missing from the global population. The primary variable that alters the sex ratio is a culture’s preference for sons. Moreover, the effects of this variable are also exacerbated by the number of children each family is permitted by law to have, and by the country’s technological capacity to act on the son preference. A son preference occurs both for economic and cultural reasons, which are rooted in long standing traditions surrounded by religion. When traditions confine females to the nurturing role within the home, males are perceived as a greater economic investment for being able to participate in the labour force. Furthermore, when these traditions posit a patrilineal, patrilocal framework, boys are viewed as extensions of the family while girls are simply to be married off in order to become an extension of another family. Once family planning measures (1-2 child policies) were implemented for population control in South Asia, families that did not yet have a son went to extremes in order to ensure that their next child would be a boy. Infanticide was not an entirely uncommon practice for South Asia, but after the release of sex selective abortion technology in the 1980’s, families were fully equipped to act on their son preference without the moral dilemma of murdering their newborn baby daughter. Within the confines of 1-2 child policies, the new technology allowed families to act on their son preference indefinitely which, in turn, began to skew their country’s sex ratio at birth.
According to UN databases, Vietnam has a sex ratio at birth of 1.10 males for every female. This is considerably off balance but, not as much so as some other countries in South Asia such as China and India. China’s has a sex ratio at birth of 1.16 and India has a sex ratio at birth of 1.11. Both Vietnam and China have 1-2 child policies while India does not. This means that India’s son preference is much higher than its sex ratio reveals because Indian families have not been stripped of the option to keep having more children after giving birth to two girls. In my travels of Vietnam, I have observed two factors - labour force participation and religious involvement, which have played a role in diminishing the country’s gender preference.
The power dynamics between genders within the household and the economic incentive for having a boy are both linked to each gender’s participation in subsistent labour. Due to culturally derived, socially constructed gender roles, women in many countries have been forced into domestic labour within the household instead of subsistent labour. As these women are not actually earning a wage for their extremely valuable work, it is discredited along with their entire contribution to the family. When Iwas touring the American war attractions in the demilitarized zone, I was surprised to find out how involved women soldiers were in the North Vietnam war effort. Not only were these women involved in subsistent labour, but they were also participating in a field that is highly male dominated globally. Given that the Vietcong won the American War, it is very possible that the influences from their military labour dynamic have extended to many other parts of Vietnamese society. UN databases indicate that 48.40% of Vietnam’s labour force is comprised of women. This is an improvement over China’s 43.6% female labour force and India’s 24.2% female labour force. China has had a large female military for thousands of years, but this changed radically in 1955. With a transition to the soviet military model, a massive demobilization of women soldiers in the red army occurred, thereby reassigning almost 800,000 women forces to civilian positions.
As mentioned above, the second factor that I noticed was Vietnam’s level of religious involvement. Buddhist and Catholic monuments litter the entire country’s landscape; however, only a very small portion of Vietnam’s population is actually religiously devout. According to the CIA database, 80.8% of Vietnam’s populace has no religion. This is much higher than China’s 52.2% atheist population and India’s 0.1% of people that do not have any religion. It is no secret that the scripture of every major religion on the planet is highly oppressive towards women and portrays them as second class human beings behind men. As religion is one of the most significant influences on culture across the globe, its misogynistic ideology has also formed much of the traditions that govern these cultures. Consequently, strong correlations between gender inequality and religion have emerged. As Vietnam continues to relinquish its religious ties, its preference for sons begins to diminish.
My first introduction to the event of Holi was during my time on exchange in Singapore. I was invited to attend a large beach party on Sentosa island, to share in the colourful festivities, but had a midterm the next day and opted to stay in and study. Later, I looked at everyone’s pictures and was so jealous; it looked like an absolutely fabulous time.
When I realized I would be here for the event in India, I was ecstatic; I could make up for missing the party last year! To prepare—or at least what I believed was preparing—I watching videos of previous year’s celebrations on youtube. These videos, complete with a majestic soundtrack, pictured smiling faces throwing all imaginable colours into the air and at each other. Sometimes they were throwing water, other times they were stopping to give each other an endearing hug. I was all the more excited to be a part of it. A friend and I went shopping specifically for long white kurtas we could wear for the celebration.
I learned the very short version of what Holi was about from an Indian national; essentially, it was about the celebration of good triumphing over evil, and everyone comes together in peace to ‘play Holi,’ together. Later, I would learn from another volunteer, that it was to celebrate the death of Holika, an evil goddess, as she was burned in a fire. She had intended to burn her son, Brahm, along with her, but her cape fell on him and protected him from the fire. Brahm was good, and so good survived instead of evil. The day before Holi, they burn Holika, which from pictures looks like a large bonfire. I asked what the actual colorful part had to do with it, and I was told that it was just a fun and creative way to celebrate it.
The week before Holi you could tell there was something in the air. The first thing I noticed were the baskets of colours featured in front of shops and stalls in the market. The colours were incredible. I bought purple first, unable to resist after I passed by the stall with some friends. I was so impressed with the quality of the colour, but it only cost me 10 rupees. I started planning the other colours I would buy; I was pumped.
Other things I noticed were how congested the markets were—my work involves investigating the value chain of fruit in the markets, so I’m often spending time wondering around markets with a translator, interviewing people. I also noticed, but didn’t understand, the level of anxiety of transportation drivers. My translator later told me that police officers were bribing jeep drivers to make a profit during Holi time. I watched such a bribe go down in front of a jeep I was to take back from Kherwara to Udaipur, and was shocked and fascinated to see it; this was the first time I was witnessing corrupt behavior of law enforcement. With these bribes happening frequently, transportation was a lot less available. During certain dates, Seva Mandir volunteers were not permitted to travel into the field.
Myself and the other volunteers came to know that Holi has a theme of ‘anything goes,’ and it’s not the safest for foreigners. This didn’t stop my excitement, however; the excitement was simply now coupled with anxiety. My vision morphed into a picture of all the foreign volunteers playing Holi together, safe behind the gates of the Seva Mandir campus.
Our Indian friends were adamant that we not travel into any congested areas on the day of the festival; they recommended that we maybe walk around in the area around Seva Mandir, to play with the children, but then promptly return to Seva Mandir.
As it turns out, we started with their recommendation, and then never stopped walking until we found ourselves in down town Udaipur. How did I feel about this? Well, I just wasn’t thinking; I was experiencing.
There were about ten of us walking together, and we were a smorgasbord of nationalities: Indian, Canadian, American, Bolivian, German, Australian, and Dutch. It was about 11 in the morning when we started out walk, and we were a sight to behold to the people around us; everyone wanted to play Holi with us. True to my idealistic thoughts about Holi, we got to interact with locals in ways that we never thought possible. I was hugging strangers, delicately smearing colours on their faces, and children that we would usually only interact with if they came up to us to beg for food and money, were instead excited to play with us. It was so nice to see children usually labeled as ‘beggar children,’ smiling and playing.
As we moved into more populated areas, it did become somewhat less fun, albeit more eventful. I found that most men would not take no for an answer when coming to give me a hug, and I started feeling a little claustrophobic about it. At one point, we had to move through a somewhat larger crowd, which was comprised of all men, and it was a frenzied mess of white powder in the air, and men surrounding us. Thankfully, we had each other, as well as friends fluent in Hindi who could communicate on our behalf. After we moved through that crowd, we were immediately invited into the home of someone who knew our Australian friend, and so we had a bit of refuge after the chaos. The father of the house then offered to come along with us, because he was a well-known figure of the community, and would not tolerate anyone disrespecting us. It was a great help to have him with us.
The day became a series of interesting events. We had water balloons thrown at us from all directions, which actually really hurt some of us. We watched a couple women absolutely harassed by a group of men because of their short-shorts and tank tops; thankfully, there were many police officers around to break up large crowds. I felt so sorry for them, and turned around to empathize and recommend they find some clothing that covered them more, but they had already taken off down the road. We had coloured water squirted into our hair, which I was pretty sure after would be somewhat permanent for a while after (I was right—you see people walking around Udaipur with green and pink hair still). We never witnessed, but heard of people eating pasteries that had ‘bhang’ in the center; this essentially renders you high to the same effect as marijuana (not to be mistaken as mischievous behavior; this is part of the festival, and is in no way illegal). Police officers were present in droves; their uniforms were the most colorless thing around. Our Dutch friend actually wished them a happy Holi, which seemed like a bad idea, due to their serious stature. But a smile broke out on one of the police officers faces that made it clear that they probably wished they could join in.
My favourite part of the day was having a roof top water fight with three children who had pelted us earlier from below on the street. Our roof top—belonging to the friend of our Australian friend—was actually higher than theirs, so I was able to surprise them with a water gun I had bought from a street vendor. We could barely reach other, but it was a hilarious time to try.
We made it to the temple in the middle of Old City, which was filled and surrounded by colorful people. We watched the celebration in the center of temple, which was a group of people singing, playing the drums, and even dancing.
When we returned to our dorms at Seva Mandir, we were all exhausted, and incredibly dirty. After the colours had been coated on us, over and over, we mostly just looked greyish. The colours were in a our ears, noses, mouths, on our hair, forever soaked into our clothes, and now all over our living spaces. We all showered immediately, and then napped for a few hours.
Looking back on it now, I think it was a truly great experience, but at the time it was somewhat stressful due to how vigilant you had to be as a foreigner; you never knew what was about to happen, or who you could trust to simply let you play and have fun.
I think my favourite part of the event, and the impression that I think will be forever etched into my mind, was a quote from one of the interviews I watched on youtube; a man was describing what Holi meant to him, and he said that he loved how everyone essentially looked the same on the day of the festival; it didn’t matter your caste, level of income, or position in society—you were all equal on that day. I just love this idea, and will always be reminded of it when I think of Holi.
In hindsight, I began learning key skills and knowledge related to development in practice well before taking the flight to Vietnam. Once you are selected for an internship, the learning process begins right away through workshops offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences and by the Canadian non-governmental organisation (NGO). In my case, I had the great fortune of receiving intensive pre-departure training from Mines Action Canada. When I initially applied for the internship, I never anticipated being trained one-on-one by advocacy experts. Although I have completed a wide-array of international development courses, there are certain aspects of the field that are not currently taught at the University of Ottawa. A key topic that is missing from our academic curriculum is learning about advocacy and strategic action that leads to policy changes. Although the academic literature is sparse, there is currently enough content available to learn about the history of civil society groups (CSGs), their fundamental role in voicing the concerns of the most marginalized populations, and distinctive tactics and approaches that can be used to evoke change. I am really appreciative that this internship provided the opportunity to learn about peaceful and successful advocacy approaches. At the same time, I have also been able to witness seemingly impossible campaigns for change become a reality after years of unrelenting activism. In all, it has been very motivating to be surrounded by people who have worked arduously towards a cause for decades, and were able to see change during their lifetime. This experience has been a reminder of the good aspects of international development, and the power of policy and legislative changes. This is important because it is often too easy to fall into the trap of cynicism and hopelessness when either studying or working in international development.
When you walk into the office of Mines Action Canada, the passion for their cause permeates and you can only be inspired by what a small team of dedicated people have been able to accomplish. During my first training session, the NGO-guru Mr. Paul Hannon entered the meeting room in a jovial spirit and sat down in front of me. He carefully placed an imposing 900-page Landmine Monitor from 1999 on the desk. He briefly introduced himself and talked about his decades of experience working on landmine and cluster bomb related issues. He explained the struggle to ban landmines in the early 1990s, and the unique strategies that NGOs such as Mines Action Canada used to overcome them. At first, a coalition of NGOs solely focused on advocating and campaigning to decisions-makers such as country leaders, governmental officials, dignitaries and United Nations representatives. Even though landmines were an inherently indiscriminate weapon, and had long-lasting and detrimental impacts on societies post-conflict, policymakers always had a military rationale to continue using and producing landmines. Landmines were considered to be a key arsenal in a country’s repertoire of weapons, and many states benefitted financially from their production. When there seemed to be no hope for change though official channels, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) formed an extensive coalition and network of like-minded NGOs and CSGs. They strategized and began advocating to the general public with moral, ethical and humanitarian arguments against the use and production of landmines. The ICBL created a platform for the survivors of landmines to share their stories and struggles with the world. By the late 1990s, the ICBL was able to successfully circumvent official channels and its systematic roadblocks with the mass public’s support. By utilising moral, ethical and humanitarian arguments, country leaders were no longer able to rationally defend the continued use of landmines with military justifications. By 1997, the Mine Ban Treaty (or officially the Convention on the Prohibition, Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction) was adopted and signed by 122 states. This is an instance where drastic change occurred on a global level because a small number of people fervently challenged an injurious status quo. With unrelenting and persistent advocacy, there are now 162 states that have ratified the treaty. While recounting the history of the Mine Ban Treaty, Mr. Hannon briefly glanced at a framed award on a nearby wall, and the pride of Mines Action Canada being part of the 1997 Nobel Peace prize just shone through.
With a successful campaign under their belt, members of the ICBL decided to merge with the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in 2011. Mr. Hannon explained that this was an unprecedented move, and many other NGOs have followed suit to merge with like-minded causes as a means to increase overall reach, reinforce complementary work and effectively evoke change with limited resources. After campaigning on the basis that cluster bombs are indiscriminate and that 98% of the victims of munitions are civilians, the once widely used weapon of war is now banned under international law with the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There are currently 89 countries that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This Convention prohibits all use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. These countries have also agreed to deadlines for clearance of affected areas and the destruction of their stockpiles.
While gently patting that 900-page book on the desk, Mr. Hannon explained his role in the publication of the first Landmine Monitor in 1999, and how members of the ICBL-CMC community joined together to actively monitor the implementation and adherence to the Mine Ban Treaty. Today, the Landmine and Cluster Bomb Monitor is recognized as the most reliable source for all information related to landmines and cluster bombs with up-to-date data on contamination, production, stockpiles, clearance, casualties and victim assistance. Mr. Hannon then explained the benefits of NGOs becoming experts in their field, and how it is invaluable for NGOs and CSGs to create a space and opportunity for politicians to bring up specific causes during official government meetings.
The learning did not end in Ottawa, but continued while interning for the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (AEPD) in Vietnam. When the AEPD was founded in the early 2000s, the challenges that persons with disabilities faced on a daily basis were not really addressed by either national or provincial governments. The financial constraints, health concerns and mobility issues that people with disabilities were facing were simply not on the government’s radar. One could easily assume that it would be nearly impossible to advocate for change within a one-party communist country. With persistence and strategic advocacy, the lives of people with disabilities have greatly improved with the implementation of an Action Plan in 2012 and the recent ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2014. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
Le Centre des réfugiés de Cape Town (CTRC) est une organisation qui a un grand potentiel, elle a ouvert ses portes en 1994 à Cape Town. Elle été connu sous le nom du Forum des réfugiés de Cape Town et son objectif est d’accompagné les réfugiés durant leur intégration en Afrique du Sud, leur offrir un soutien psychologique et financier au besoin pour démarrer une nouvelle vie dans un pays plus sécuritaire que le leur et les assister quand ils expérimentent des attaques xénophobes, chose assez commune malheureusement en Afrique du Sud.
Récemment en 2014, l’organisation s’est agrandit et a ouvert un nouveau bureau à « Port Elizabeth », une autre grande ville qui se trouve au SUD-EST de Cape Town, pour offrir le même soutien pour les réfugiés qui vivent dans cette ville.
J’ai beaucoup aimé mon expérience dans ce centre jusqu’à maintenant, et je pense que trois mois ne sont pas suffisant pour laisser quelques chose derrière soi. J’ai l’impression que c’est seulement maintenant, rendu à mon troisième mois que je commence à mieux saisir ma position dans cette organisation et surtout avoir des idées inspirantes d’ateliers à réaliser pour participer à l’évolution de cette organisation.
Les superviseurs sont très chaleureux et mettent les stagiaires dés leur deuxième semaine au feu de l’action. Tout le long de mon stage je me suis sentis traité d’égale à égale. Chaque Lundi et Mercredi quand la salle d’attente se vide et quand on a fini de voir tous les réfugiés qui se sont présentés, je vais voir ma superviseur pour partager avec elle mes impressions sur certains clients qui ne m’ont pas laissé indifférente à leurs histoires et leurs luttes. Ma superviseur va tout simplement me répondre en m’engageant encore plus en disant : « Qu’est ce que tu peux faire pour changer ça! ». Après quelques semaines j’ai pu finalement présenter deux idées d’atelier, qui ont été très bien reçus par ma superviseur et depuis je suis entrain de travailler dessus.
Le premier atelier que j’ai proposé concerne les femmes réfugiés ou demandeurs d’asile qui ont entre 19ans et 29ans, victimes de viol et qui ont eu des enfants suite à ça. J’ai remarqué que les réfugiés que j’ai assisté et qui ont subi une violence pareil, ont beaucoup du mal à accepter les enfants qu’elles ont eu malgré elles et expriment un sentiment de culpabilité par rapport à ce refus.
Ce sentiment de culpabilité est fréquent chez les victimes d’agression sexuelles survivantes des conflits armés et des guerres en Afrique et évidemment cela se reflète sur leurs aptitudes en tant que parents et sur l’éducation des enfants.
Au Rwanda après le génocide de 1994, un groupe des femmes survivantes du génocide ont essayé de créer des espaces où elles peuvent se rencontrer entres elles et raconter leurs histoires mais aussi partager leurs sentiments confus par rapports à leurs enfants issus du viol, sans avoir peur d’être juger, car elles s’identifient dans l’histoire de chacune d’entres elles, et en résultat elles se sentent aussi soutenus. Ce genre d’espaces ont un effet thérapeutique et aident les participantes à avoir l’impression de se distancier pour un moment de leurs vécus en écoutant les autres qui ont des histoires similaires et les aider à réfléchir dessus, en conséquence ça leur permet d’avoir une autres perception de leur vécu.
L’idée de l’atelier de soutien que j’ai proposé est très similaire à celle-ci, je me suis inspiré de ce modèle. Mais évidemment ça va être différent, car tout dépendra des besoins exprimés par les réfugiées qui vont accepter d’y participer.
Pour l’instant je suis encore entrain de lire les dossiers des femmes victimes de violences sexuelles et en choisir celles qui répondent aux critères nécessaires, par la suite je vais rencontrer chacune d’entre elle et lui proposer l’idée de l’atelier et voir si elle accepte ou pas d’y participer. Ma superviseur dit qu’on peut commencer par un groupe de 5 à 8 femmes, donc j’espère que je vais pouvoir trouver les candidates avant la fin de mon stage.
Le deuxième projet sur lequel je travail est la proposition de 8 ateliers et/ou activités pour le groupe de soutien des personnes âgés. J’ai déjà eu l’occasion d’animer le premier atelier et de collecter leurs idées et suggestions. C’est un groupe très dynamique, les ateliers qu’ils suggèrent sont plus de nature éducationnels que de soutien.
Mon travail consistera à proposer le plan des 8 ateliers et les thématiques à discuter, en s’inspirant des problématiques et des besoins que les membres du groupe ont exprimé lors de notre première rencontre. J’ai déjà pu mettre au point le premier atelier qui aura lieu le dernier jour de mon stage, et qui portera sur les droits et défis des réfugiés et demandeurs d’asiles en Afrique du Sud, où on aura un représentant de l’UNHCR qui va ouvrir le débat sur ce sujet avec le groupe. Puis un autre stagiaire va prendre le relais et continuera de travailler avec eux. Il faut dire que ce groupe va vraiment me manquer.
Je penses que ce centre a beaucoup de potentiel et c’est vraiment un milieu très agréable et prometteur pour les stagiaires d’acquérir une première expérience de terrain dans le travail social et surtout d’avoir l’opportunité d’apporter une expérience différente et participer à l’évolution de ce projet, surtout avec le nouveau bureau à « Port Elizabeth » qui vient tout juste d’ouvrir et qui a besoin d’esprit jeune et dynamique.
J’ai la chance d’être accueilli dans un pays ‘aux milles couleurs’. En employant cette expression, je fais référence au sens direct et métaphorique du terme. Évidemment, l’Inde est rempli de couleurs vives. Que ce soit les Saris que les femmes portent quotidiennement, de la ville complètement bleue de Jodhpur, des mariages, des fêtes ou des festivals, l’Inde n’a rien de noir et blanc. A cet égard, Holi, le fameux festival des couleurs prend tout juste fin. Cette fête qui est célébrée pour vénérer le Dieu Krishna et la Déesse Ratha, se résume grossièrement en une bataille amicale de couleurs. Ainsi, partout à travers le pays, les gens se lancent des seaux d’eau tintés de couleurs vives ainsi que des poudres de teintes multicolores. Si vous portez du blanc attendez-vous à être la cible privilégiée. Si vous êtes en voiture, assurez-vous de fermer vos fenêtres puisque plusieurs personnes attendent au bord des rues pour vous apserger de liquide coloré. Et si vous faites partie des braves, explorez les rues à pied et laissez-vous vous emporter au rythme du festival. C’est un moment où tous se rassemblent pour pardonner ce qu’il y à excuser ainsi que pour relâcher ses tabous. C’est certainement un terrain de « guerre », mais un terrain de guerre où on célèbre la paix, la joie et l’amour…
Toutefois, ce magnifique pays cache aussi des reflets plus sombres. Tout n’est pas bleu bébé, rosa nana ou vert pomme. À travers ces tons plus obscurs, on aperçoit facilement de profondes injustices entre sexes, entre castes et entre statuts socio-économiques.
Les différences discriminatoires entre les hommes et les femmes sont bien présentes et dans plusieurs sphères de leur vie. L’excellent documentaire intitulé India’s Daughter , nous permet de mieux comprendre ces injustices. Par exemple, la naissance d’une fille n’est pas célébrée comme celle d’un garçon. En fait, il est plus exact de dire qu’elle n’est pas célébrée du tout. Par aileurs, la naissance d’un bébé garçon est fêtée avec plusieurs cadeaux et avec une gastronomie impressionnante. En grandissant, les deux enfants du sexe opposé n’auront pas les mêmes droits. Il n’est pas rare que la fillette doive prendre ses repas après le garçon et seulement si celui-ci est bien rassasié. Après tout, c’est lui le futur homme de la maison; il doit être fort, il doit pouvoir protéger… Ceci reflète, en quelque peu, la mentalité injuste qu’on retrouve dans certains milieux. Très tôt, les parents tenteront de marier leur jeune fille car on veut la voir quitter la maison sans tarder. Le jeune homme lui restera auprès de sa famille. Ces situations sont la conséquence directe du patriarcat qui prévaut en Inde.
Le système de caste en Inde n’est en rien plus équitable, bien au contraire. Les « intouchables », au bas de la hiérarchie de ce système, sont doublement marginalisés. D’abord, l’étiquette d’intouchable stipule que ces gens ne doivent pas être touchés pour ne pas contaminer les castes ‘honorables’. Puis, en plus de se trouver dans une situation économique difficile, ils se font fréquemment refuser l’entrée aux temples. Et le port de bijoux leur est interdit. C’est ainsi que, par exemple, si un « intouchable » prépare un repas, il est inutile de l’offrir aux gens des autres castes car ils le refuseront d’office par pudeur.
Pourtant, la section (2) de l’article 15 de la constitution indienne, qui interdit la discrimination sur la base de castes, stipule que:
« No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to—
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public. »
Il semble que, malgré cette interdiction constitutionnelle, le système de caste est tellement ancré dans les coutumes du pays qu’il est peu probable que de telles discriminations disparaissent dans un avenir rapproché. De plus, la structure même de ce système, hiérarchique, soumet les groupes au bas de la pyramide à davantage injustices, et ce par sa forme même. Ainsi, je me questionne: le système de caste n’est-il pas en soi injuste? Pourquoi interdir la discrimination entre castes, si la notion même de caste est discriminatoire? Il me semble une bonne idée de réviser ses politiques dans une optique abolitionniste. et peut-être même d’un point de vue absolutistes.
En outre, le système capitaliste vient élargir davantage l’immense écart qui existe déjà entre les riches et les pauvres. D’une part, on peut observer les grands palais, les énormes forteresses et les merveilleux temples richement honorés. De ce coté, se trouve une élite logée dans des résidences d’un luxe éblouissant et munies des voitures les plus dispendieuses. D’autre part, de l’autre coté de ce profond fossé, se trouvent les bidonvilles, les itinérants, les enfants pauvres dans les rues, et ceux qui meurent de faim. Parmi ceux-ci,, une grande majorité vit tristement en dessous du seuil de la pauvreté.
C’est ainsi qu’à moins de dix pas du grand luxe de certains quartier et de temples regorgeant de richesse, on retrouve des enfants affamés qui quêtent de l’argent. À cette vue, je ne peux m’empêcher de me poser la question à savoir combien d’enfants pourraient être nourris avec les sommes d’argent consacrées à ces merveilleux temples.
Dans un même ordre d’idée, laissez moi vous raconter une aventure qui illustre bien cette iniquité. Au début de mon séjour en Inde, très près d’un quartier luxueux de Delhi, j’ai aperçu un homme couché sur le sol. Son corps semblait mou et était étalé sur le trottoir, ses jambes pendaient dans la rue, tandis que ses bras étaient disposés au dessus de sa tête. On pouvait croire qu’il venait de tomber et qu’il s’était assommé. Bref, son corps était immobile; à croire qu’il était sans vie. Il n’était pas difficile à repérer, mais j’étais le seul piéton qui semblait le remarquer. Les gens passaient à ses côtés, l’ignorant comme on ignore un déchet dans la rue. Sans doute était-il un « intouchable », donc ne méritant-il aucune aide aux yeux des passants?
« Après tout cet itinérant n’avait qu’à travailler fort cumuler la richesse de l’homme en Tuxedo qui passait à côté de lui sans le remarquer.. Ainsi, il aurait pu éviter sa situation malheureuse, non? ». Ce discours populaire, et surtout naif, provoque chez moi une frustration inévitable. Réduire la complexité des problèmes que font face ces gens stigmatisés, à la seule ‘volonté de travailler’, n’a rien d’allocentrique. À mon avis, cette problématique doit être approchée avec une plus grande empathie en ce sens que le fait d’être itinérant ne se résume pas au seul ‘manque de volonté de travailler’.
Malheureusement, il semble que l’écart évoqué ci-avant est plus grand que jamais. La richesse et la pauvreté se côtoient sans gêne, sans honte et surtout sans compassion. On y voit le système capitalisme à son pire, manipulant la société comme un vrai chef-d’œuvre.
Pour revenir à un ton un peu plus joyeux, j’ai la chance d’avoir des discussions animées avec certains habitants locaux. Les entendre rire et les voir sourire me rend toujours très heureux. Malgré les grandes différences culturelles et les immenses injustices qui prévalent dans ce monde, nous sommes tous humains, n’est-ce pas?
De toute évidence, la situation en Inde n’est pas isolée. Que ce soit en Inde, au Canada ou ailleurs, les inégalités sont toujours présentes. Il est difficile, et surtout risqué, d’affirmer qu’une situation est meilleure qu’une autre puisque ces injustices sont reflétées différemment et dans des contextes socio-politico-économiques complètement distincts.
À première vue, cette publication peut sembler contredire le contenu de mon premier blogue. À cet égard, il faut éviter de ne pas tomber dans la stéréotypisation ou la généralisation des problème sociaux explorés ci-haut. En effet, loins de moi l’idée de stigmatiser davantage les inégalités qu’on retrouve en Inde. Je ne tente ainsi en aucune façon de pointer du doigt ces injustices comme si elles étaient exclusives à l’Inde. Il ne s’agit pas, non plus, de blâmer les personnes du sexe masculin, les riches ou les hauts membres du caste indien. De telles accusations n’ont aucune issue positives.
L’intention de ce blogue est plutôt d’affirmer que ces injustices sont symptômes d’une problème plus grand qu’il ne semble. Les iniquités qui y sévissent ont leur source à un niveau social et culturel plutôt qu’individuel!
So I’ve quickly settled into my daily work routine. When I first started at the CTRC I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that there would be many things that would be different from how things are run back at home but I was mostly worried about how emotionally invested I would get interacting with refugees and talking about their stories.
My first day of work we had a staff meeting and the acting director at the time explained to us that we can’t get emotionally involved because if we do we won’t be able to sleep at night. I quickly understood what he meant because my very first client that I interviewed came from a very tragic past and I found it very hard to listen to it without reacting in an emotional way. After working here for the past month and a half I literally think I’ve heard it all. That’s not to say that I’m not effected by it but it’s almost sad to say that I’ve become used to it. Monday and Wednesdays are intake days where refugees line up and wait to be seen, so we jump right into it early Monday mornings. It’s starting to slow down a little but for the first month there would be a line up out the door before we even got there.
On an average intake day you can see up to 8 to 10 clients a day, but that’s if everything runs smoothly meaning if there isn’t a huge language barrier or if their background isn’t too complicated. On the flip side there are some intake days where you can only see 4 or 5 clients because some need more time to figure out what assistance you can provide. The intake days are very interesting and are my favorite part about working here. I like being hands on and feeling like I’m making a difference. I don’t think I’m doing anything that will immensely change their lives but it feels good to know that I can help a family eat or keep a roof over their heads for at least another month. The part I don’t like about intake days is turning a client away without being able to provide any sort of assistance. This doesn’t happen too often but the rule of the CTRC is to help the most vulnerable. Like any NGO there are budget constraints so we unfortunately can’t help everyone, and the people we do help we can only provide one sort of social assistance. The CTRC doesn’t want to create dependency which is what I like because there are those clients who try to take advantage of the program, this is another thing I’ve learned to look out for. All and all I love my job and it has given me a lot of hands on experience and has shed new light on how NGO’s are run.
Il ne reste que trois semaines avant de retourner au Canada. D’un côté j’ai hâte de retrouver mes proches et amis, mais rien de plus. Mon confort et la qualité de ma routine n’est pas trop différente que ce à quoi je peux m’habituer pour une longue durée ni à ce que j’avais au Canada.
Je me suis surprise à apprécier ma vie ici, même si elle est très loin de ma famille, puisque j’apprécie beaucoup les tâches quotidiennent pour lesquelles je suis responsable dans le cadre de mon stage.
C’est arrivé à un point où je me lève chaque matin enthousiaste de faire mon travail, un phénomène que je n’avais jamais connu auparavant! Je travaille les fins de semaines et souvent en soirée pour pouvoir avancer mes projets. Je n’ai pas peur d’un “burn out” puisque ça m’amuse!
Mais je travaille fort aussi parce que j’ai énormément de trucs à faire. Comme mon premier mois de stage s’est avéré inutile (ou presque), tout mes responsabilités furent poussées dans l’espace d’un mois et demi. À les regarder en février, j’étais persuadée que je les terminerais bien avant la date limite, mais à y repenser, les conditions de travail et les circonstances font qu’il y a des chances que ça arrive tout juste.
Je dois voyager pour le travail, faire des ateliers, terminer un manuel de capacitation, distribuer des panflets, etc. Et en plus, je suis invitée à des conférences, des ateliers sur des enjeux féministes, des événements, etc. J’ai la chance de connaître l’environnement politique et activiste du Pérou.
J’ai peine à croire que très bientôt, je devrai retourner au Canada, au froid et sans emploi. J’ai envie de rester et appuyer l’Asociation Aurora Vivar, avec laquelle je fais mon stage, plusieurs mois encore… mais la réalité me frapperas très bientôt! Il est temps d’apprécier chaque petit moment ici au Pérou, car les chances sont que je ne les revivrai pas.
India is a brilliant place. It has forced me to think deeply about many of the realities that exist both here, and across the world.
I have come to a few conclusions; however, based on the way that my internship has gone thus far, these conclusions may change… we are constantly learning.
On the matter of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and their impact in India specifically, I have gone back and forth in my perception of this impact. When I initially came from Canada and landed in India, I genuinely had no solid opinion on NGO’s here - I had no idea how it worked.
Step-by-step Thought Process
Frustration and hopelessness:
This was the first step. I kept learning about all of the intricate and complex problems that plague India - specifically in terms of the work that I am focusing on with my internship (violence against women [VAW] and gender-based harassment). Based on this, I became frustrated with the mere ambition of attempting to remedy some of these problems. I was under the impression that because I could not comprehend the issues, there would be no way for NGO’s to solve them.
Too many people, too many NGOs:
The next step consisted of being overwhelmed with the numbers. There are so many people in India, and as an extension of this, there are also so many organizations who are trying to work toward alleviating some of these cultural and societal issues. With that being said, I became extremely frustrated with the knowledge that many of these NGO’s are not working together. Perhaps if all of the man power were pooled together, implementing change would be easier. This circulated in my mind for a couple of weeks as I was meeting with different NGO’s and hearing about all of their strategies and action plans.
I was in Delhi when I actually had the opportunity to see the [long-term] impact an NGO had made with an initiative called ‘Sakha Cabs’. This NGO reached out to women from resettlement colonies and slums, taught them how to drive, and trained them to become qualified taxi cab drivers for a company that runs by the motto: “For women, by women”.
After meeting some of these girls and reading about their stories, I realized that although it may not be transforming the entirety of India, it is change. Positive change, change in the right direction, and the exact type of change that we need. I realized that the work that my organization is doing is also extremely valuable in the same way - motivated people making positive change and, no matter what the ’size’ of that change is, it is important. I have been incredibly motivated since I had this epiphany (even more so than I was before, which is saying a lot because I’ve been extremely enthusiastic this entire time!)
I learnt two things from this ‘back and forth’ thinking.
1. Never generalize
I kept on making large generalizations about this country and about the impact of NGOs on the lives of people. This is unfair. In a country with over a billion people, it is impossible to generalize about the experiences of everyone. I realized that this is applicable to all situations and all areas. This is something I will take with me in all realms of my life.
2. Never give up
With the help of passionate, motivated, and inspiring people, this country has shifted. Perhaps it has not shifted as much as many people would have liked (culturally, economically, etc) but, it has. Time is crucial in situations like this - it must be devoted to a cause and, eventually, it will make an impact.
Long story short, I’ve learnt that NGO’s are incredibly important. Perhaps I wouldn’t have realized this had I not been placed in a situation where I am constantly asking questions, and attempting to figure out why things are the way they are. That’s one of the huge benefits of these internships - you’re placed in a completely unfamiliar environment. This environment, in many cases, is the kind you learn about in the classroom…. far away. Being immersed in something so real allows you to ask the tough questions - the kind that often we don’t think about while in the classroom.
When you think of India it is likely that you think of arranged marriage. Typical representations in pop culture tell a story of controlling parents who arrange a marriage for their daughter. The family is generally well off and wanting to marry their daughter to someone respectable. In these stories marriage is not about love it is about family unity. The daughter is often resistant to the arrangement as she is usually in love with someone else or not interested in marrying a stranger.
The reality in India can look quite similar or quite different to this popular story. In rural India marriage is about poverty. Girls are usually married at a very young age often before they have reached puberty. Although there are laws against child marriage once the marriage has been performed it still remains valid under the law. Because dowry is still widely practised, families with lots of daughters are more impoverished. This is the main reason behind female infanticide and child marriage. As soon as the girl is married she becomes the ‘burden’ of her in-laws. Because of a generally negative attitude towards women in rural India, the new wife is often seen as a burden to her family despite the fact that she brings a dowry with her, will cook and clean for them and bear multiple children. This misogyny results in the death of a woman every hour in India from ‘accidental kitchen fires’. These fires are coined ‘dowry deaths’.
In the city, arranged marriage is becoming less common. Wealthier families are able to postpone the marriage of their daughter until she is ready or has reached a respectable age (generally mid to late 20’s) for marriage. I asked a friend from work if she was dating anyone and she said that she had not found the right person so her parents were getting ready to arrange a marriage for her. She is 26 and seems to accept that her marriage will be arranged since she did not find anyone on her own.
At the school in Anupshahr, Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES) plays a role in postponing their students’ marriage until they are graduated. The girls often go on to pursue higher studies or work to support their family before getting married. In one case, one of their graduates broke off her engagement and asked PPES to find her a husband that would let her work, ride a motorbike and who would not force her to wear a purdah (end of sari fabric used to cover face). They found her a suitable husband and now she is able to work. When she is on leave for maternity he fills her job at PPES. Unfortunately, there are still girls who will leave the school in order to get married but the number is slowly declining as attitudes are changing in the surrounding villages.
I had a chance to attend a wedding a few weekends ago. This gave me the opportunity to have an authentic experience with an Indian marriage. The groom was from a royal family of Rajasthan and therefore overflowing with money. So much so that I was uncomfortable with his wealth. The hotel that we stayed in was decadent for Indian standards and the groom covered the cost of the rooms and any food we ate. Considering the hotel was full to the brim with his guests and sleeping five to a room, the bill would have been enormous. This made me think of the vast inequalities plaguing this country. I wondered about his character. Was he a kind and humble person who appreciated his wealth and the poverty of others? From the little time I knew him I guessed not. Even so, I appreciated his generosity and the chance to see an Indian wedding. It was an unforgettable experience.
One thing is for sure: weddings in India are a constant affair. Spiritual men are consulted for auspicious dates. This means that on one given night there could be a wedding happening in every block of a town. The contrast between the intense conservatism dictating everyday life in India and the joy and beauty of their holidays and celebrations is startling. To say the least, India is a culture of extremes. I am yet to figure out how these extremes interact. How do love and marriage intertwine or distance themselves?
I heard a story through a friend the other day. He told me that while riding in a car with some locals a couple told them of their experience with marriage. The man and the woman in the couple are in fact married to other people. To be clear this is not the same as an affair in Canada. Instead, the two accepted long ago that their marriages were loveless but because of the finality of their arranged marriage and the stigma surrounding divorce they stayed in their respective marriages. In order to cope with this, they both went looking for others and found each other. While in the car, the woman received a call from her husband and asked that everyone be quiet so he would not know where she was. It seemed as if both of them were leading completely separate lives with their spouses and then together. It clearly was not only about sexual relations but about having love in their lives. I did not find myself judging the situation as I might judge cheating spouses in Canada. Here, marriage, love and affairs are completely different concepts and it is for each to discover for themselves how to confront the inequalities dictating love and marriage in India.
This morning I was talking to the 21 year old woman who works at my residence. With a joyous smile and a warm loving nature I right away became fond of her. We were talking about our families and she mentioned that her six sisters were married. I asked if she too would be married. She said that soon yes and that it would be arranged because she did not trust love marriages. I then asked why and she replied that many Indian boys cannot be trusted since they will have a wife and a few girlfriends on the side. When she said this I suddenly understood that in some ways an arranged marriage could be safer than a love marriage, at least if you want to protect your heart.
It is not something I would choose for myself but gathering these stories from locals has really helped me understand the complexities surrounding marriage in India.