“What does a consultation run by feminists look like? And will the outcome really be that different than others?”
These were questions posed to me as I embarked upon the long journey to Colombo, Sri Lanka to participate in the consultations that Equality Fund and AWID have been conducting since December.
The consultations were unlike any conference I’ve attended in the past. They were collaborative, informative, and left me with a sense that I had gained knowledge as well as a whole new network of women from a different part of the world.
From the get-go, the consultation was different: The room was full of natural light and set with only chairs in a circle. Instead of traditional introductions, the day started off standing, dancing and introducing ourselves one-on-one with a sort of musical chairs. For the first morning, the activities were focused on building trust among the 30 of us in the room, making it easy for everyone to tell their story and share their opinions even if they were challenging. As an employee of the organization being consulted about, I expected to be an observer of these consultations. Instead, I was treated as a participant and actively engaged in the process. This perspective made it easier to truly hear what was happening in the room.
The activists who joined us shared their experiences working with diverse women in local communities and challenged us by showing us how we can think about creative solutions differently and in more expansive ways.
We spent our breaks dancing and laughing, talking about our lives, and sharing creative solutions to complex problems. In addition to a traditional rapporteur, we had a graphic rapporteur (see the pictures above) who captured our consultation in words, pictures, and with colour.
By the end of the two days, everyone in the room had gained new friends, supporters, knowledge, and creative ideas. We all came away with so much more than just a few thoughts about the Equality Fund.
So, was the outcome really that different than other consultations? Yes, it really was.