Lessons from the field: Sustainability through intergenerational learning

Carolyn Kitione
Posted November 6, 2020 from Fiji

The Pacific Feminist Forum (PFF) in 2016 was a major undertaking and a turning point in the journey of the Pacific feminist movement.

The event was a combination of years of organizing, networking and engaging in different spaces. It was – as the then Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Michelle Reddy put it -  “a space where feminist, women human rights defenders and advocates are able to recruit; a space to learn from each other, to share the challenges and hurt.”

Dr Claire Slatter, who delivered the keynote address, shared her experience as a young feminist co-organising the first Pacific Women’s Conference (PWC), after returning from the First World Conference on Women (1975) that was held at Mexico City.

“Interestingly, most of the women who attended the meeting were older women so it was actually a little bit of a reverse – younger women organizing a meeting with an early feminist agenda,” she explained.

This “reversal” in dynamics is interesting because too often these days, young women aren’t being brought into the fold over discussions that concern their future.

Even if we move away from the “feminist agenda” narrative and into the wider advocacy movement, who makes all the decisions? Who sets the agenda?

Because too often, young people aren’t seen as partners for development, nor are we seen as leaders of today despite evidence to the contrary.

At a recent workshop, I was the lone youth (and female) voice in a table of aging men.

It was intimidating partly because they weren't very receptive to what I had to share - a reflection of the cultural and traditional environment some of us have grown up in.

For young women – and young people in general – we are working in systems that are not designed for us yet here we remain, challenging existing oppressive and patriarchal structures and transforming these spaces into more inclusive zones.

In recent years, there has been a shift in the overall understanding of young people’s roles in our development culture.

In 2015, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.

This resolution, as well as Resolution 2419 (2018), recognises youths as positive role models in preventing conflicts and building peace.

It also urges governments and stakeholders to give us a greater voice in decision-making at all levels and includes setting up the mechanisms that would allow us to participate meaningfully in these processes.

Traditional structures rarely, if ever, entertain and much less welcome the vocal contribution of young people. The issue is made messier when it’s the voices of young women that need to be heard.

In societies where tradition and culture still guide communal life, it is important to find allies and create structures that are conducive to young women’s participation in decision-making.

A three-day cross-generational National Convention organised by the Fiji Women’s Forum and Fiji Young Women’s Forum in 2017 was an opportunity to develop strategies for women’s political participation.

As a volunteer for femLINKpacific at the time, attending the convention was an almost surreal moment for me.

In the room, there were participants from different backgrounds and all ages coming together to map a way forward for the women’s rights movement in Fiji.

There were moments that exposed generational values and created tension in the room but our ability to organise with a common goal is what eventually progressed conversations in the room.

For me, it was realising that the work we do for the future we want did not occur overnight. And that is the beauty of intergenerational spaces.

It provides us with an opportunity to learn about what’s been done but also realising what could be done.

These spaces put us together with diverse groups of women: women with disability, the LBT (lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community, rural women and young urban women.

By providing that intergenerational space, we are allowing for intersectional conversations to take place. It forces us to consider the disadvantages someone faces because of their overlapping social identities.

And yes, there will be disagreements, but when we talk about sustainability of a movement we are talking about an inclusive human rights and peacebuilding approach that includes diverse groups of people.

We are carrying forward the visions of the women and human rights defenders who came before us and that’s how we create sustainability in a movement.

By ensuring young women’s access to decision-making spaces at the community level, we guarantee an entryway into decision-making and in peace processes at the national level.

More can be done to ensure young women’s participation and this should mean ensuring their access to spaces that allow for that learning and the resources to succeed.

Comments 18

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Basudha Modak
Nov 07
Nov 07

This is something soclose Tomy heart .I always believe that educating a woman creates future generations learners too ..
She herselfshouldersforwardto breakthe generational curse that not getting educated brings .
Go forward dear Sister .

Carolyn Kitione
Nov 08
Nov 08

Thank you, Basudha!

maeann
Nov 07
Nov 07

Welcome to World Pulse Carolyn :) Your story is your power.

Thank you for sharing. How powerful is your post article.

Carolyn Kitione
Nov 08
Nov 08

Thank you, Maeann!

MUVUNYI FABIENNE
Nov 08
Nov 08

Thanks for sharing dear Carolyn

Carolyn Kitione
Nov 08
Nov 08

Thank you, Muvunyi, for taking the time to read this piece!

Chidimma
Nov 08
Nov 08

Dear Caroline, beautiful smile you have. Thanks for sharing your post. Keep striving.

Carolyn Kitione
Nov 08
Nov 08

Cheers, Chidimma!

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 08
Nov 08

Dear Caroline,
Your words touch me deeply, it is always a celebration to know that women are gathering and in discussion. I took in your important message, for those of us older to remember the plans and work in this direction that we took, and what we made possible in our 20's (for me 1970's) and so not to underestimate or hold back what you are creating. Your voice rings out strong and clear and I celebrate you and all of the strong young women here in Wold Pulse. You give me such hope, and I send you all love with such respect. Your strong voices, ideas and plans make me full of joy.
Deep Sisterhood,
Tam

Carolyn Kitione
Nov 08
Nov 08

Thank you, Tamarack. I am humbled by your words.

Nini Mappo
Nov 10
Nov 10

Hello Carolyn. Welcome to World Pulse.
I like the vision of the PFF movement to involve young women in community decision making as a pathway to national involvement in negotiating human rights and the peace process. Bravo!

ESTHER MUTWARE
Nov 10
Nov 10

merci carolyn d'avoir partager cet message , c'est très interessant

esther atosha
Nov 10
Nov 10

powerful story welcome to world pulse dear

Adanna
Nov 12
Nov 12

Dear Carolyn,

Welcome to World Pulse and thank you for sharing.

Indeed, more work needs to be done to ensure women’s participation in all spheres of society especially when it comes to decision-making.

Love,
Adanna

ANJ ANA
Nov 12
Nov 12

Dear Carolyn,
Thank you so much for sharing your first post. Yes, the inclusiveness and diverse participation is very important for the sustainable development.
We want to hear you more in future, please do posting.
Love, anjana

Queen Sheba D Cisse
Nov 13
Nov 13

Greetings Carolyn,
This is a very good start of initiating a process of collective sharing that is not in the normal sense a often occurrence. Communicating with many from difference ages is a learning tool as well and it opens up the door for much needed conversations to be spoken and for new ideas of improvements to spring forth. Keep organizing and keep sharing cultural ways that is good to keep and the ones that need improvement and respect every opinion especially the elders. Congratulations!
Mama Queen

Andrace
Nov 14
Nov 14

Hi Carolyn,
"We are carrying forward the visions of the women and human rights defenders who came before us and that’s how we create sustainability in a movement." That is powerful. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

Meanwhile, a warm welcome to World Pulse, your new family.....Yaaaaayyyyyyy! Congratulations on your first post too.

'Great that you are raising your voice. Keep writing and shining, Sis.

Love and hugs,
E. J.

Jennifer Zeng
Nov 24
Nov 24

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you for sharing your perspectives. Can't agree more! Great to see that you are taking active leadership role in advancing women's rights in Fiji and sustainable development. Well done!