How can I improve my practice? A journey into my personal and professional growth as a development worker engaged with gender inequalities in Ethiopia
here is what my paper is about:
This paper focuses on my encounter with some Ethiopian female students whose common denominators are poverty, discrimination, violence, inequality but also resilience, hope, courage and dignity. This narrative describes how a group of young students believe education has enriched their lives in a country still dominated by patriarchy, with an adolescent birth rate of 58.4 % (births per 1000 women aged 15-19)and a gender development index of 0.842 (UNDP, 2016). I will draw insights from my practical experience as a development professional who works in Ethiopia with the aim of contributing to the establishment of the human capabilities of these young women. They aspire to a dignified life and believe education to be the sole instrument with which they can free themselves from the subordinated position society attributes to them. As a living-theory researcher (Briganti, 2016) who neither separates herself and her practical experience from the social formation she is part of, nor from those aspects of life she is interested in researching, I will explain (my living-educational-theory) my educational influences in my own learning while working with Ethiopian girls and women, in the learning of the people I worked for and in the learning of the social formations that influence my practice and understandings as a development professional. I will show how my work in Ethiopia (2005-to date) is enriched and underpinned by Living Educational Theory methodology that helps me to understand more fully the motivating power of love, faith and action I incorporate within my practice, and how I originated the notion of generativity in a living-theory of sustainable development. As a female development professional and researcher, I also write about the recognition of the significance of gender, professionally, personally and interpersonally. The narrative provides the reader with a journey into my own development, unveiling my living values and living standards of judgment (Laidlaw, 1996) while attempting to be a ‘good’ development professional aspiring towards a ‘good’ change (Chambers, 2005) and dealing with gender inequalities. The core of my writings focuses not only on my influence as a development professional in the learning and development of young Ethiopian women, but more interestingly on the influence those women have had on my practice and how they have shaped my view of development, sustainability, and gender. I end this paper with an appreciation of the process that may lead me eventually to answer the key question for a living-theory researcher, namely: ‘How can I improve my practice’.
I look forward to your comments and suggestions for improvement.
Hi, Ari. This is certainly a Living Theory paper and I enjoyed it very much. I have made extensive notes on the paper and, indeed, taken the liberty of making minor edits as I went along. At times, the English language usage is a bit awkward and I am hoping that those corrections can be made.
I think that there could more explanation of methodological issues such as methods (such as interview process), validity and ethics in greater detail.
Ari, you convince me that "As a LT researcher I am researching my own practice as a development worker to generate and share educational knowledge that can be of use to others in generative sustainable development to enhance the flow of values and understandings that carry hope for the flourishing of humanity (Whitehead, 1989). These are the reasons why I decided to engage in a very disciplined and deep analysis of my personal and professional story in generating my living-educational-theory with my values and where they come from as my explanatory principles."
What is needed, I think, is a thorough edit with some explicit explanations of methods, evidence of claims to know and easier access to the video clips.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
I thank you so much for engaging with my writings and for your stimulated and spot on comments. I tried to respond to each of them in my latest interaction (attached). In this version I also added my response to Pip's comments. Hence now the paper looks pretty messy. However, I believe this is a better way to tackle each of yours and Pip's valuable contributions.
As for your enquiry related to whether this is a narrative action research or a self-study action research I would like to clarify that my aim is to write a living theory paper. I don't think I need to use action research to reach my aim. When it comes to self-study, of course LT contains elements of that, but it then transcends the self in my eyes, because it seeks to influence the social formation I'm part of.
In the process of developing my LT I want to analyze the evolution of my unique constellation of values influenced by both my own socio-historical context as well as the socio-historical context of the people I work with in developing countries. These generates what I refer to as a global network of relationships, which lie its foundation on people’s unique constellations of values for the flourishing of humanity (Whitehead, 1998) that influence each other’s constellation, transcending geographical borders and human diversities.
This is how I see LT and why I’m attracted by it. Please let me know if this has answered your enquiry, and do share with me your feelings about my thoughts. I'm also willing to be corrected about this thought.
Love from Sarajevo
Hi, Ari. It has been a great pleasure to read and respond to your article. You are doing wonderful work and your positive influence on the women of Ethiopia needs to be shared and appreciated.
This article is ready for a final edit and publication. I have made a few notes in orange in the attachment.
Thank you VERY much Jackie! I have acknowledge your comments and as soon as I hear back from Pip and Swaroop I'll be circulating the semi-final iteration for the board.
Your comments have been really useful and will bring them directly into my thesis :-)
As I said in my last communication, I am happy for this to go to publication. A couple of my comments in italics will need removing but your editor will sort those. Glad you got Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s book. I think you will find it most interesting.
just to let you know that I posted another iteration of my paper which includes also Swaroop's comments. In case you want to use this latest version please feel free.
I very much enjoyed this paper, for a number of reasons. It is a Living Theory paper and I like the openness you express to learning from your Ethiopian connections as they learn from you. Your support of your claims to this mutuality comes across clearly in the video links as well.
As you will see in the track changed comments, I suggest you clarify what you mean by 'gender equality', particularly as you are working in cross-cultural contexts. In Maori society, men and women have different but equally important roles in formal events (e.g. when entering a marae, or formal meeting space, women are at the front but when seated, are at the back. This is often taken to be 'sexist discrimination' by those who don't understand the cultural reasons for the practice).
I have also suggested that you are cautious in your use of the term 'empowerment' at the end. I praised you for avoiding this at the start - it has been critiqued by those who see the 'empowerers' as different from (and superior to, in their eyes) those being 'empowered'. You may be aware of this critique, and I liked the way you used 'sustain' in the early part of the paper.
I would have liked a little more about how you know, from other contexts you work in, you are practising in accordance with your values. To me, how we seek and respond to evidence that we may be practising differently is vital to the integrity of our work. Are your connections invited to challenge the ways you do things, or how you present their responses? If so, how? And how do you respond? You obviously think deeply about this but I found your evidence to be largely self-reflective rather than overtly seeking of alternative perspectives from your connections. Just something to think about.
Also, when you give a direct quotation from a written source you must include page numbers. It was difficult to know whether some of the quotations you provided were verbal or written and I didn't see any page numbers in the text. You need to alphabetise your refs and carefully check them for appropriate publication data (location of publisher, for instance) as well.
I wish you well in the production of the next iteration of this paper Ari. I hope my comments are helpful.
thank you so much for reading/editing my paper and for your thought-provoking comments. I worked on it and I tried to provide you (and Jackie) with an answer to all your enquiry and include your suggestions in my writings. You can find them all in this latest iteration which now looks really messy.
I really appreciate the way you stimulate my thinking to focus on issues such 'empowerment' and the inclusion of my connections into my research. Your suggestion to deepen my exploration is also key to the thesis I'm writing. I tried to include a bit of that in this paper, however I'm aware that there is so much more to explore on this topic.
Love from Sarajevo
Well done with your clarification on the points I raised - Jackie will speak for her own, and I know Swaroop is yet to give you feedback.
I am glad you grasped the point I was making about the perils of 'empowering others' and have adapted the wording in a couple of places to get yourself off that hook. I also appreciate the efforts you have made to explain what 'gender equality' might mean to you. As I don't know Ethiopian cultural practices, I can't comment on how comprehensive your definition might be. I know that in New Zealand, there would still be more 'unpicking' needed about what constitutes celebrating gender differences with respect, vis-a-vis being seen to be discriminating. I think you might need to do this in your thesis, but as you rightly explain, this is a paper and I think what you have put is adequate for this context. Revised track changed file attached.
I have done minor tweaking again (compulsive pedant here) but I think, once you get favourable feedback from your other two reviewers, I would recommend publication. It is a powerful paper and makes clear your desire constantly to improve your practice, and to respect those with whom you work. You learn from them as they learn from you.
again thank you for your comments ( not at all compulsive or pedant). I downloaded Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book and I look very much forward to reading it.
I attach the 3 iteration where I also respond to Swaroop's comments.
I really enjoyed reading this paper, especially since I could empathise very easily with you and your girls. It is in no way similar to my experience, however it took me back to the days I worked with the KGBV teachers and students (A dream for equal education: Reflections on creating a living educational theory- http://ejolts.net/files/270.pdf). Both of us were dealing with gender inequality and working towards the empowerment both theirs and ours.
I agree with Pip when she says ‘I found your evidence to be largely self-reflective rather than overtly seeking of alternative perspectives from your connections. Just something to think about.’
There are still places where I find the sentence constructions and language a little awkward but I will leave it to Jackie and Pip to help you there.
I apologize for join in so late, but I think that works to your advantage as most of my queries where raised by the other reviewers and I can see you are in the process of answering them.
Now just a point…I didn’t want to put it as a comment in the paper as it is just a thought I want to share---You talk of love and justice in resolving conflicts of rights, yes true, but have you considered the use of imagination? Social imagination: the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, on our schools. As I write of social imagination, I am reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s declaration that “it is on the day that we can conceive of a different state of affairs that a new light falls on our troubles and our suffering and that we decide that these are unbearable”
- Maxine Greene: Releasing the Imagination, pg. 5.
Thank you very much for reading the paper and for your always useful and thought-provoking feedback. I attach here the 3 iteration where I tried to respond to each of your enquiries.
As for your point on imagination, well you certainly have triggered mine now and I'm very keen to know more about that.
What I know ( and used in the past) in a method called 'visioning' where member the community are asked to 'envision' themselves in 5 to 10 years and describe how they imagine their lives, city, working environment and so on. My colleagues and I found it very useful to design interventions in a participatory way and respond to people's need, rather then HQ's expectations.
However my knowledge is limited and social imagination is not something I'm familiar with. Would you refer me to some literature perhaps in the context of development? This sounds really intriguing.
You mentioned Freire talking 'of risking acts of love, of discovering the kind of solidarity that becomes possible when those being taught are recognized as persons with the potential for transcending life situations understood to be oppressive and unjust'. I found that in Maxime Greene ' The matter of justice' (p.189)
If I understand currently she is also the author of 'releasing the imagination' you refer to, right?
Good work and I am happy for paper to go to publication.
I have also tried helping you with some sentences as you asked me to but I am sure the editors will do a better job, so no worries.
Yes, It is the same book- Releasing the Imagination- Maxine Greene, in which she
explores living in awareness and "wide-awakeness" in order to advance social justice. I am sure you will enjoy this book....one of my favourites.