I’m near the close of my service and there are many conversations that I keep having throughout the two years here. In regards to gender, and what the people are really referring to is biological sex, there is the constant argument of men and sometimes women here saying that men are just a lot stronger than women. The other argument is the one where the host country nationals don’t view gay men as strong if they show any displays of what they think is femininity. While this short essay could easily become a novel with research, studies, and anecdotal experiences I would rather keep it succinct with my plea for intersectionality in gender development work in Nicaragua.
I could start by defining intersectionality in the terms that I would use in these passages, intersectionality is the inclusion of people of color, people living with disabilities, the elderly, people of other religions, people that are LGBTQ+, and the people that hold the majority of the power, which for a large part of the world are white catholic heterosexual young able bodied men. It is crucial for us to include those that are on the receiving end of societal privilege as much as possible, because then instead of a myriad of violent struggles, we can have learning moments and mutual understanding of our differences and ways to celebrate them. This is a battle that is more easily won by peace rather than force.
In Nicaragua, the Peace Corps has done an amazing job with gender development for the host country nationals in their initiatives by continuing with the girls empowerment camp GLOW, and adding the boys empowerment and development camp CHACA. By adding camp CHACA to the mix, Peace Corps volunteers are reaching out to young boys, correcting their behavior, and increasing their knowledge on gender equality before they have solidified bad habits of street harassment and the less obvious forms of gender oppression such as dominating conversations and aggressive communication. It is with that platform that many of the volunteers will most likely use as a stepping stone towards intersectionality. I have heard conversations from campers in CHACA about how women should have every right to choose how they dress and express themselves. I have also heard stories from volunteers who participated in GLOW that the campers have had many questions on what it is like for someone to be a lesbian or gay. From that, I have seen that there are individuals here that are ready to learn about more advanced themes of intersectionality when working with gender development. Through time, we could advance the ideas of these camps further by having older women come in and speak with the young girls about how their lives have changed and what equality means throughout age and waning physical ability. We can have transgender men come in to CHACA and have the boys talk to them about what it really means to be a man even though you weren’t biologically born one. There can be components that each camp contemplates why they don’t see anyone that look like them in new movies or commercials. While these new themes open up new workloads for the volunteers, I have noticed that the number of host country nationals is growing that are ready to have these complex conversations and they want to be a part of the positive social change. I believe that it is one of our duties in development to help them learn and understand the many differences that this world has to offer and how they can make sense of all of those differences for themselves and the communities that they belong to.
– CJ Sanchez
Peace Corps Nicaragua Env 66
GAD Committee Member