by Graduate Institute Committees & Initiatives
During November 2020, the Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA), alongside the Initiatives and Committees of the Graduate Institute, hosted the Gender and Diversity month. As an important month that focuses on debates regarding gender and diversity, it is also essential to maintain the conversation going throughout the year. In order to maintain public memory, and to have a record of what was discussed, this article presents a round-up by the Initiatives and Committees that hosted events that happened in November 2020.
Note: The Graduate Press team takes no credit for these event summaries, which were written entirely by Initiative or Committee members.
QISA has all semester been diligently working on planning events and advocating for students’ rights and we continued to do so during Gender and Diversity month. We are so proud of what we have done. First, on November 13th, we had a Voguing Workshop, taught by Hanzy Keat LaBeija of the Royal House of Labeija. Although we were all sore the next day, we enjoyed learning and celebrating a fabulous part of queer culture.
We also hosted two Common Room Chats, November 8th and November 22nd. During the first, we discussed the privilege of passing as a cisgender or heterosexual person. The following one co-hosted with the Human Rights, Conflict & Peace Initiative, was about LGBTQ+ and Human Rights. We were honored to listen to Ph.D. candidate Manon Beury, Senior Programme Officer at ILGA World, Gabriel Galil, and Polish Human Rights student association member and law student Aleksandra Musial talk about their experience and their work.
Throughout the whole month, QISA also worked on our many advocacy goals, including gender neutral bathrooms, normalizing the use of gender neutral pronouns, and more inclusive representation at the Institute. All with the help of the Feminist Collective, GISA, and the Welfare Committee. This month, we also commemorated International Trans*, Intersex and Non-Binary Day of Remembrance by attending the vigil at Place de Nations, hosted by Association 360, Asile LGBT, CRAQ, and Groupe sida Genève.
The Gender, Peace, and Security Coalition hosted a panel discussion with Nadine Puechguirbal, Monica Mendez, Dr Yvette Chesson-Wureh, Solene Brabant and Rola El-Masri to explore Feminist perspectives on a range of issues surrounding gender-based violence (GBV). GBV is often followed by the successor “in conflict situations”. While the eruption of GBV in the presence of stressors, such as war, merits attention, it should not detract from the ground these eruptions are growing on. The basis for GBV exists in society, in culture and customs without conflict erupting, and it exists outside conflict situations. Putting the money where the conflict is, generally does not lead to addressing the root causes of GBV.
COVID was the latest stressor that has unravelled persisting inequalities and imbalances around the world – including Europe. GBV may take many forms; however, can more often than not be traced back to power structures and, in particular, imbalances. One person won’t change the system – it is a collective effort. Our panel brought together five powerful women who picked their battles and are changing their worlds: installing the women situation room to advocate for peace in elections, making women economic agents or exposing the logic of patriarchy in institutions.
Amicale Francophone (AMEF) and Feminist Collective’s movie night: L’Ordre Divin
On November 10th, the Feminist Collective and the Amicale Francophone organised an online-screening of l’Ordre Divin, Petra Volpe’s 2017 much-applauded dramatic comedy. The film follows the story of Nora, a young stay-at-home mom in a small village of Appenzell, in Switzerland, her family and her partners-in-crime. In 1971, as the date of the second national referendum about women’s right to vote approaches, Nora and a few other women organize their co-villagers to fight for women’s suffrage. This tender, slightly romanticised, and sometimes funny, portrait of village life depicts the tensions emerging around the question of universal suffrage amongst the village’s tight-knit community.
Despite trying to steer away from drama, the movie nicely depicts the difficulties Swiss women had in convincing ‘their’ men to let them vote – as the Swiss democratic system means women’s suffrage had to be voted on by all male citizens. The movie, therefore, also provides a nice introduction to several recurring themes in the Swiss political and social life, such as the extreme pressure farmers are under, the pros and cons of the referendum system, migration, and cantonal differences. It also tackles questions of masculinity, love and relationships in a patriarchal system.
Whxteness: An online talk on racism and feminism
Whxteness is an online platform run by two anti-racism activists, Lisa and Iseult. As part of G&D month, on November 14th, the Feminist Collective invited them to talk about the ‘whiteness’ of the Feminist movement, and how Indigenous and Brown womxn were systematically excluded. Lisa and Iseult highlighted how white women’s demand for access to the workplace ignored the complex history of the (forced) labour of Black, Brown and Indigenous women, as well as the stratification of labour inherent in white women pursuit of careers (who will take care of the children and households of white middle-class women?).
The talk also highlighted how white women’s activism was often limited to their own needs, whilst failing to use their privilege to advance other women’s rights. When white women in Europe and the USA experienced sexual liberation in the 70s and 80s, they ignored that indigenous and black women in the USA were sterilized without consent in high numbers. Similarly, the #Metoo movement, started by a black woman, ended up featuring mainly white women as survivors, especially in high-visibility cases, whilst it is well known that non-white women are statistically more in danger of abuse. The talk ended on a Q&A session and discussion of what an intersectional, de-colonised feminism could look like, as theorised by Brown, Indigenous and Black womxn.
Peace with Body/Peace with Food Workshop
During the last week of the G&D month, on November 26th, the Feminist Collective, in collaboration with the Welfare Committee, organised a workshop on Body Positivity and Making Peace with Food. Many of us struggle with troubled relationships with food and our bodies at some point in our lives. We wanted to create a safe space to explore these issues and to form methods going forward.
The workshop featured two speakers – Sophie d’Hooghe, a registered professional coach and co-founder of SoHappy, who talked to us about self-compassion and the importance of using kind language with yourself. And Eve Lahijani, a registered dietitian nutritionist, who introduced methods to heal our relationship with food and combat emotional eating and binge eating through the concept of a hunger-fullness scale.
At the end of the workshop, we engaged in interactive exercises to practise self-empowerment. First, we had a reflective exercise, in which we were able to imagine meeting our wiser and older self in 10 years’ time to reflect upon our present struggles and find paths toward healing. At the end, we identified potential stress foods to make peace with and three promises for the future.
Professional Development Committee (PDC)
In November 2020, during the Gender and Diversity month, GISA’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) aimed at creating awareness about workplace harassment by initiating an online campaign on Instagram. Under the broad spectrum of Gender & Diversity, PDC chose 3 themes: Sexual harassment in the workplace, Racism and Discrimination in the workplace, and Diversity in Management and Leadership. The goal was to have a highly interactive campaign, and for this purpose a #PDCPolls activity was established to which students answered questions about the themes proposed.
There were also designed posters, which went live on our feed on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. The aim was to have a visual appeal to the audience, and to create a deeper understanding of the various issues related to discrimination in the workplace. Under these posters, there was the hashtag #PDCPromotes, to advocate for ideas to overcome these situations.
On November 25th 2020, PDC held an Alumni Round Table in collaboration with the Alumni Office and Career Services around the theme of Gender & Diversity. Institute’s Alumni joined the conversation and shared their experience of working in the field of G&D in different organizations around the world, like DCAF, WIPO, Centre For Law and Policy Research.
For the last event under the G&D month, on November 30th 2020, The PDC collaborated with The Podcast Initiative to host the event “That’s the Tea for G&D”, which was a tea side conversation around G&D with the Institute’s new director Marie-Laure Salles. The event was streamed live on YouTube and was highly appreciated by students, professors and staff members. If you would like to check it out, you can access it through the livestream: https://youtu.be/AGe7V-ggi9s
Photo by The Graduate Institute of Geneva, Flickr.
Events were also hosted by the Middle East North Africa (MENA) Initiative, Latin American Network Initiative (LANI), Macro-Development Research Initiative (MDRI), the Anti-Racist Coalition, and Black Conversations.