International Women’s Day 2018 calls people to #pressforprogress by thinking, acting and being gender inclusive. This is not only a timely call but also a very important one in its focus on collective action. Collective action is definitely needed as we address gender equity issues. Indeed now more than ever we need all the effort from all voices in promoting equity.
While recognizing the importance of #pressforprogress as outlined above, it is important to question inclusion as a goal. Calling for inclusion without asking some important questions then this call might end up being rhetoric. To fully realize the benefits that can occur with gender inclusivity, we need to understand how this inclusion looks and how it translates into practice at the work place, in institutions, at the very local point in our homes.
What is this inclusion based on? This question enables us to define how we work together to promote gender inclusive practices. This means acknowledging how different we are placed in community, our different histories, customs and traditions, ethnicity, and how these differences influence how oppressive systems affect us. We all have shared struggles but these struggles are shaped differently and this difference is important when calling for inclusion.
What is this inclusion for? This question speaks to motivations for doing social justice. Before calling for inclusion it is important to understand why we want this inclusion. If it is as a means of achieving organizational goals of gender inclusivity then this motivation might simply be tokenistic and not really effective. Inclusion is not inclusion if it is not meaningful. Institutions must ask themselves why they are implementing gender inclusive measures. After we evaluate our motivations for inclusion, the next question we need to consider is who is inclusion for. Is it for us, us as a people, organization or institution, to simply appear as responsible and gender inclusive? Or is it for marginalized genders to actively take part in what they rightfully deserve?
Based on these questions, we must do more than include. We must engage. Engaging means reaching women including those in rural livelihoods and collectively chart a way forward. It is important to note here that even as we focus on gender inclusion this should not be understood as only focusing women-identifying persons but also other genders as well; #pressforprogress should encompass the plurality of gender.