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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

Feminist leadership means rethinking power

Feminist leadership means rethinking power

by Oxfam | May 9, 2012
“I have never been introduced to the concept of food as a right—very interesting” 
– Ottawa participant in the Food Dialogue Project 
 
Oxfam Canada believes that ending poverty begins with women’s rights. We also believe that our food system is broken, and that in order to fix it, we must have the largest conversation in the history of the planet about food. That’s why this spring we hosted public dialogues on women’s rights and the food system.
 
These sessions were part of our Food Dialogue Project, and a great opportunity for us to bring Canadians into a conversation that illustrates interconnections between women’s rights and the food system. What struck me was how through dialogue, Oxfam can learn more about, and practice implementing, inclusive feminist forms of discussion and engagement.
 
As a center of excellence for gender justice, we continue to build our capacity to use forms of public engagement that allow voices to be heard, and that support collaboration. Feminist leadership means rethinking power. It means being aware of how to create a nurturing space, and understanding how to share power within a conversation. To truly create collective action, we must work together as equals. Unfortunately, all too often, conversation doesn’t happen like this.
 
The deliberative dialogue method we used to facilitate the Food Dialogue Project speaks to these principles of space, conversation and collaboration. It aims to bring individuals together to develop a collective common ground – a united way forward – that uncovers assumptions and leaves judgment at the door. By working with experts in this methodology – the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation – we were able to support participants in the sessions to develop clear and compelling common ground. Through discussion, the groups concluded the following issues were of highest relevance to the creation of a hunger free world:
 
Power
Health
Equity
Sustainability
 
To create a world we believe in sustaining for the future, it is essential that we incorporate these values into systems and structures designed to alleviate hunger and ensure women’s rights. There was also consistency within the groups as to the types of actions which people were willing and motivated to take to create change in our food system. Participants identified the following types of actions:
 
Educate myself, and my peers
Create positive personal habits
Support or organize with others
Work with the government
 
It was incredible to see participants’ openness and their willingness to co-create a shared vision when the dynamics of power (age, education, background, gender, profession) were left behind. It was an energizing (and fun!) experience and I look forward to finding more opportunities to spread these methods and tools—within Oxfam, with other organizations and with individuals who feel as passionately as we do about creating sustainable solutions to develop a world where everyone has enough to eat, always.
 
Read about the common ground and suggested actions developed by participants in the Food Dialogue Project.
See the workbook we used to facilitate the Food Dialogue Project.
 
Share a story of a woman you know that is working to create a better food system.
Read more about Oxfam’s work on agriculture and women’s rights.
See other events from Oxfam Canada.
 
Kelly Bowden is a member of Oxfam Canada’s Policy and Outreach Team
 
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