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Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Photo by: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

You can’t be what you can’t see: The Lack of a Gender Perspective in Democracy
Elsa Marie D'Silva, Elizabeth Maloba and Cecilia Barja

Every year, members of the Global Diplomacy Lab host a Night Owl session at the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) in Slovenia to bring a diverse and practical perspective to the political discussion. This year’s forum in early September focused on the topic of “(Re)Sources of (In)Stability”. Elsa Marie D'Silva, Elizabeth Maloba and Cecilia Barja were selected to present an interactive session, “Creating a Resilient and Inclusive Future” which included their experiences from the ground in India, Kenya and Bolivia respectively.

The aim of the session was to highlight how we could add a gender lens to our policy-making and our approaches to solving challenges faced by many countries, especially those in the Global South. In order to have a resilient and inclusive future, it is important to include diverse voices such as those of women and youth, who are not represented at the table in many cases. With growing economic inequalities in many parts of the world, democracies are under threat and resources are strained, thus affecting our ability to address current challenges, such as climate change and migration, effectively. Throughout the session, we tried to show the gender impact of climate change.

In many parts of the world, gender inequality takes numerous forms, ranging from violence that is perpetrated from womb to tomb, skewed birth ratios as in India, limited access to education and healthcare and the lack of women in leadership positions in business and government. This has a direct impact on women’s status in society. It affects, how they are viewed, how their contributions are valued and how they can – or cannot – actively participate in critical decision-making. Women are not only resources that can be counted on, but also agents of stability if provided with the right platform. Yet most often they are left out of the planning process and leadership. By establishing links between such issues, our goal was to help policy-makers to think about these complex problems in a holistic manner and to put “gender on the agenda”.

Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Some of the case studies we discussed are as follows.

Cecilia Barja, a former mayor in Bolivia, is currently an activist working on citizenship and migration issues. From her varied perspective, she shared the importance of political dialogue for change rather than for votes. Cecilia emphasised the need for nano-politics and transformation achieved by engagement at the micro level for the sustainability of democratic processes. She shared the story of Cirina, an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico. Cirina grew up in a family of campesinos from the northern hills of Puebla, close to Huauchinango, whose hard work growing coffee beans fed and clothed the entire family for decades. But as a small and independent farmer, her father was ill-prepared to withstand the changing weather conditions and warmer temperatures that killed the family’s crops. They had to leave their farm. Her father and brothers moved to the big city to work in informal jobs, while she had to cross the border as a teenager, looking for a better future. Cirina should be regarded as a climate refugee, but because this is not the case, her human rights are infringed and she has to live in fear and uncertainty every single day.  

Elsa Marie D'Silva spoke about her work at Safecity in India where crowd-mapping and data visualisation have the potential to bridge gaps and foster accountability in governance, especially on taboo issues such as sexual violence. The ability to crowdsource anonymous stories helps to bridge the data gap that exists due to the under-reporting of sexual violence. Analysing local-based patterns and trends helps to identify factors that contribute to the violence, but also points to possible solutions. Elsa Marie gave several examples where the information was instrumental in getting the police to change their patrol route and policing, whilst communities rallied around the women to take a stand. One example shared involved a hotspot near a tea stall in an urban slum in Delhi, where men would loiter while drinking their tea and intimidate women and girls with their constant staring. When asked what they wanted to change about their neighbourhood, the young girls said that they would like the staring to stop. Safecity organised an art workshop for them, and they painted the wall with staring eyes and subtle messaging that loosely translates into English as “Look with your hearts and not with your eyes”. It had an instant impact in the community and the staring and loitering stopped, thus allowing the girls to walk comfortably, with no stress, to school, college or work, without fear of being intimidated by these men. Transparency of information enables individuals and communities to hold various stakeholders, including government, accountable in achieving SDG 5 on Gender Equality.

Elizabeth Maloba ventured into the narratives surrounding gender and climate change and the framing of these discussions in ways that further progress or inspire defensive responses. Drawing on ecofeminist theory, she explored narratives of patriarchy and the ways in which both nature and women are treated by a patriarchal society, namely as subjects to be dominated for the good of man. Important feedback received from the audience was similar to A.E. King’s criticism of ecofeminism that by focusing only on gender and the environment ecofeminism fails to take an intersectional approach. The audience made it clear that they would have loved to explore the intersectionality aspect of this dialogue in depth.

Our guest speakers Badria, Lilla and Ivan, youth BSF leaders, shared their perspectives as young people driving change in their communities. Badria spoke about examples from her work in Morocco and Benin, where rural women have been empowered to participate in political processes and to become political leaders, thus playing a part in shaping policies and addressing climate change. Lilla, one of the youth BSF leaders from Hungary, spoke about the role of influencers in climate change, and sparked a heated discussion in the audience on how influencers can generate the right answers or adequate responses that could lead to transformation. She asked if we can really go beyond emotional appeals and discuss the issue based on scientific evidence and data.

Given the lack of data, it felt as though hidden figures were masking the enormity of the gender-equality challenge when it comes to addressing climate change or even migration. It disturbed us to think of how gender mainstreaming is still neglected and why climate change is still often ignored.

Finally, if the information were to be made available in a transparent manner coupled with education, would it make a difference to women’s ability to engage and contribute to climate change adaptation decision-making?

We left with more questions than answers, but we are confident that we got people to think a little more deeply about the issue.

Published on December 10, 2019.

About the authors

Elsa Marie D’Silva is a social entrepreneur with interests in the fields of social and personal development, peace, aviation and mental health, and she is also the founder of the Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. 

Elizabeth Maloba works in cross-sectoral, trans-professional, multi-stakeholder settings, providing support in problem solving and decision making processes and facilitating learning and the exchange of ideas. 

Cecilia Barja Chamas has vast experience in leading political processes and cross-sector alliances in Latin America and the United States and is continuously working on building relationships between races and religions on issues of common concern such as housing and education. 

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Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Elizabeth Maloba

Elizabeth has twenty years’ experience in addressing complex challenges. She works in cross-sectoral, trans-professional, multi-stakeholder settings, providing support in problem solving and decision making processes and facilitating learning and the exchange of ideas and information. She has extensive experience in international cooperation, development cooperation, and private sector development.

Elizabeth is active in cross-cultural groups, from grassroots level to global platforms, assisting in the professional development of leaders and the formation of, teams, policies, strategies, plans, and business models that contribute to addressing development challenges. She brings skills in capacity building, knowledge management, facilitation, conflict resolution and management, as well as experience as an entrepreneur gained through a wide variety of assignments. She lives in Nairobi, works across the world, and speaks English, Swahili, German and French.

......................................................................................................................................................

Find out more about her engagement here and in this interview. Furthermore, Elizabeth reflected on inclusion here.

Cecilia Barja Chamas

Cecilia Barja Chamas has led political processes and cross-sector alliances in Latin America and the United States for 20 years. In 1999, she co-founded the political party “Movimiento Sin Miedo” and was elected to the office of councillor for La Paz at the age of 23. In 2008, she coordinated Magis Americas in New York, mobilising resources for “Fe y Alegría”, a Jesuit network of 3000 schools in 17 Latin American countries.

From 2010 to 2016, she was a member of Fundación Avina in Colombia, leading cross-sector alliances in six Amazonian countries and the peace process in rural areas of Colombia. Since September 2017, Cecilia has been part of the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a grassroots network that builds relationships between races and religions on issues of common concern such as housing and education. She has a Master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

Cecilia currently works for the Listening and Dialogue Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and FADCA Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, since 2021. In addition, she is the Vice-president of El Futuro, which is a mental health clinic for immigrants. Furthermore, she is a board member of Nativa, Naturaleza Tierra y Vida (Gran Chaco Biome) and of the Immaculate Conception Church. Cecilia is also a community organizer of several local/state faith organizations, like North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, Durham CAN -IAF. Besides that, she contributes to Bolivian magazines.  

...................................................................................................

Read more about her vision of the GDL's communication strategy on our blog

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Elizabeth Maloba

Elizabeth has twenty years’ experience in addressing complex challenges. She works in cross-sectoral, trans-professional, multi-stakeholder settings, providing support in problem solving and decision making processes and facilitating learning and the exchange of ideas and information. She has extensive experience in international cooperation, development cooperation, and private sector development.

Elizabeth is active in cross-cultural groups, from grassroots level to global platforms, assisting in the professional development of leaders and the formation of, teams, policies, strategies, plans, and business models that contribute to addressing development challenges. She brings skills in capacity building, knowledge management, facilitation, conflict resolution and management, as well as experience as an entrepreneur gained through a wide variety of assignments. She lives in Nairobi, works across the world, and speaks English, Swahili, German and French.

......................................................................................................................................................

Find out more about her engagement here and in this interview. Furthermore, Elizabeth reflected on inclusion here.

Cecilia Barja Chamas

Cecilia Barja Chamas has led political processes and cross-sector alliances in Latin America and the United States for 20 years. In 1999, she co-founded the political party “Movimiento Sin Miedo” and was elected to the office of councillor for La Paz at the age of 23. In 2008, she coordinated Magis Americas in New York, mobilising resources for “Fe y Alegría”, a Jesuit network of 3000 schools in 17 Latin American countries.

From 2010 to 2016, she was a member of Fundación Avina in Colombia, leading cross-sector alliances in six Amazonian countries and the peace process in rural areas of Colombia. Since September 2017, Cecilia has been part of the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a grassroots network that builds relationships between races and religions on issues of common concern such as housing and education. She has a Master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

Cecilia currently works for the Listening and Dialogue Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and FADCA Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, since 2021. In addition, she is the Vice-president of El Futuro, which is a mental health clinic for immigrants. Furthermore, she is a board member of Nativa, Naturaleza Tierra y Vida (Gran Chaco Biome) and of the Immaculate Conception Church. Cecilia is also a community organizer of several local/state faith organizations, like North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, Durham CAN -IAF. Besides that, she contributes to Bolivian magazines.  

...................................................................................................

Read more about her vision of the GDL's communication strategy on our blog

Cecilia Barja Chamas

Cecilia Barja Chamas has led political processes and cross-sector alliances in Latin America and the United States for 20 years. In 1999, she co-founded the political party “Movimiento Sin Miedo” and was elected to the office of councillor for La Paz at the age of 23. In 2008, she coordinated Magis Americas in New York, mobilising resources for “Fe y Alegría”, a Jesuit network of 3000 schools in 17 Latin American countries.

From 2010 to 2016, she was a member of Fundación Avina in Colombia, leading cross-sector alliances in six Amazonian countries and the peace process in rural areas of Colombia. Since September 2017, Cecilia has been part of the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a grassroots network that builds relationships between races and religions on issues of common concern such as housing and education. She has a Master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

Cecilia currently works for the Listening and Dialogue Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and FADCA Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, since 2021. In addition, she is the Vice-president of El Futuro, which is a mental health clinic for immigrants. Furthermore, she is a board member of Nativa, Naturaleza Tierra y Vida (Gran Chaco Biome) and of the Immaculate Conception Church. Cecilia is also a community organizer of several local/state faith organizations, like North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, Durham CAN -IAF. Besides that, she contributes to Bolivian magazines.  

...................................................................................................

Read more about her vision of the GDL's communication strategy on our blog

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Elizabeth Maloba

Elizabeth has twenty years’ experience in addressing complex challenges. She works in cross-sectoral, trans-professional, multi-stakeholder settings, providing support in problem solving and decision making processes and facilitating learning and the exchange of ideas and information. She has extensive experience in international cooperation, development cooperation, and private sector development.

Elizabeth is active in cross-cultural groups, from grassroots level to global platforms, assisting in the professional development of leaders and the formation of, teams, policies, strategies, plans, and business models that contribute to addressing development challenges. She brings skills in capacity building, knowledge management, facilitation, conflict resolution and management, as well as experience as an entrepreneur gained through a wide variety of assignments. She lives in Nairobi, works across the world, and speaks English, Swahili, German and French.

......................................................................................................................................................

Find out more about her engagement here and in this interview. Furthermore, Elizabeth reflected on inclusion here.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Elizabeth Maloba

Elizabeth has twenty years’ experience in addressing complex challenges. She works in cross-sectoral, trans-professional, multi-stakeholder settings, providing support in problem solving and decision making processes and facilitating learning and the exchange of ideas and information. She has extensive experience in international cooperation, development cooperation, and private sector development.

Elizabeth is active in cross-cultural groups, from grassroots level to global platforms, assisting in the professional development of leaders and the formation of, teams, policies, strategies, plans, and business models that contribute to addressing development challenges. She brings skills in capacity building, knowledge management, facilitation, conflict resolution and management, as well as experience as an entrepreneur gained through a wide variety of assignments. She lives in Nairobi, works across the world, and speaks English, Swahili, German and French.

......................................................................................................................................................

Find out more about her engagement here and in this interview. Furthermore, Elizabeth reflected on inclusion here.

Cecilia Barja Chamas

Cecilia Barja Chamas has led political processes and cross-sector alliances in Latin America and the United States for 20 years. In 1999, she co-founded the political party “Movimiento Sin Miedo” and was elected to the office of councillor for La Paz at the age of 23. In 2008, she coordinated Magis Americas in New York, mobilising resources for “Fe y Alegría”, a Jesuit network of 3000 schools in 17 Latin American countries.

From 2010 to 2016, she was a member of Fundación Avina in Colombia, leading cross-sector alliances in six Amazonian countries and the peace process in rural areas of Colombia. Since September 2017, Cecilia has been part of the North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a grassroots network that builds relationships between races and religions on issues of common concern such as housing and education. She has a Master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School.

Cecilia currently works for the Listening and Dialogue Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and FADCA Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, since 2021. In addition, she is the Vice-president of El Futuro, which is a mental health clinic for immigrants. Furthermore, she is a board member of Nativa, Naturaleza Tierra y Vida (Gran Chaco Biome) and of the Immaculate Conception Church. Cecilia is also a community organizer of several local/state faith organizations, like North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations, Durham CAN -IAF. Besides that, she contributes to Bolivian magazines.  

...................................................................................................

Read more about her vision of the GDL's communication strategy on our blog

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