Launching the #NigeriaNAP

On 27th August, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development of the Government of Nigeria launched its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

  1. With @Ollee11 @ChineduAnarado @NSRProgramme at the launch of the #NigeriaNAP – looking forward to discussing implementation
  2. Lyrics of the women’s anthem we are going to sing at the end of the #NigeriaNAP launch twitter.com/chitranagarajan…
  3. At d launch of d #NigeriaNAP with d Minister 4 Women Affairs & Social Devt. #NationalNAP sees 2 d inclusion of women in peace-building
  4. @chitranagarajan the #NigeriaNAP ensure women are part of peace and security initiative. It caters to the needs of women and girls!
  5. Just spoke at #NigeriaNAP launch on behalf of @NSRProgramme – stressed ‘good for women and girls’ AND ‘good for peace and security’
  6. Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs, practicalised what it means to mainstream gender – is doing so in every area of life #NigeriaNAP
  7. Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs – women are major stakeholders in peace and conflict resolution #NigeriaNAP
  8. UNSCR 1325 was a watershed UN evolution of women’s rights and security issues says Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs #NigeriaNAP
  9. Crucial link between peace, women’s participation in decision making & recognition of women’s life experiences in conflict #NigeriaNAP
  10. Conflict changes traditional roles of men and women in society – Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs #NigeriaNAP
  11. Still insufficient opportunity given to women to participate in decision making processes that affect their lives #NigeriaNAP
  12. The #NigeriaNAP serves as roadmap to guide implementation SCR 1325 – gives women opp to partake in decision making on peace & security
  13. We at @NSRProgramme get commended for making production and launch of #NigeriaNAP possible by Zainab Maina, Minster for Women’s Affairs
  14. Role of women in our society is unquantifiable -when you train a woman, you are building a great & viable nation – Zainab Maina #NigeriaNAP
  15. Hajia Maina thanks UNwomen and @NSRProgramme for helping with the publishing and dissemination of #NigeriaNAP
  16. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu – Nigerian women are tired of being on the menu, am I right? asks Lydia Umar YES! #NigeriaNAP
  17. This #NigeriaNAP is not just good for our Nigerian women and girls but also our men and boys says Lydia Umar, one of its drafters
  18. When there is conflict, war & crisis, the gun does not recognise if you are a woman but total exclusion of women #NigeriaNAP
  19. Women are not just victims but essential in ensuring a culture of peace – this has not been recognised; Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  20. Security Council observed lack of women’s participation & impunity for gender based violence – took decisive action in 2000 #NigeriaNAP
  21. Changing nature of conflict – before only involved men but now evolution with civilians being targeted – Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  22. Why do women need to be critical stakeholders? Experiences of women and men different #NigeriaNAP
  23. Lydia Umar – need to take into account role of gender equality & conflict prevention, & protect women’s human rights #NigeriaNAP
  24. When we spoke with women during the Kaduna conflict, were concerned about lack of bread – men did not experience that #NigeriaNAP
  25. I observed that 85-90% of those in displacement camps are women – where are the men? – Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  26. Even if not in formal negotiations, play critical role in keeping families & communities together, via marriage cross divide #NigeriaNAP
  27. Undervalued & underrecognised contributions of women, disprop impact of conflict, impt of women’s participation recognised #NigeriaNAP
  28. Why is 1325 significant to Nigeria? Current security challenges facing enough reason for Nigeria to key into #NigeriaNAP
  29. Need to go away from being reactive to proactive to conflict – paradigm shift if #NigeriaNAP implementation
  30. If think of impact of 1325 on Nigeria, think of the impact of conflict on women – so much to say, not enough time #NigeriaNAP
  31. Just exchanged ‘namaste’s with Zainab Maina, the Minister for Women’s Affairs while we unveiled the #NigeriaNAP – well, that was unexpected
  32. 1% military women, 4% in UN police, women not in peace discussions in DRC & Burudi, only 2 special reps of UN Secretary General #NigeriaNAP
  33. Want to see female ex-combatants mainstreamed into process of demobilisation and reintegration, not marginalised #NigeriaNAP
  34. Need to integrate discussion of human rights – including that of women – into peace negotiations says Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  35. If we do not know laws and policies, we do not know how to demand for our rights – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  36. This #NigeriaNAP will not be meaningful if our sisters at grassroots do not know – need to sensitise & develop personal action plans
  37. We must promote the culture of peace – from our homes onwards; must include women in peacebuilding – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  38. We must train women and girls as mediators, conciliators so when you’re at the table, can speak in the jargon they understand #NigeriaNAP
  39. We need to think of women and what they need when looking at post conflict says Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  40. Must intensify advocacy against traditional and cultural practices that prevent women participating – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  41. Bilkisu Yusuf strongly advocating for a strong transitional justice mechanism to address crimes committed during conflict #NigeriaNAP
  42. I’m fanatical about #NigeriaNAP. I am coming to your communities to see what you have done and what the people say – Bilkisu Yusuf <love her
  43. The #NigeriaNAP is not UN property, not federal property – you & I are owners of NAP; all are stakeholders in peace so NAP is our business
  44. Is it too much to ask for peace? Must put money where our mouth is so need to fund the #NigeriaNAP – Bilkisu Yusuf <YES!
  45. Successful implementation will depend on funding and political will; #NigeriaNAP should not be a beautiful document that is not implemented
  46. Nigeria contributes more troops than any other in West Africa to UN missions; exporting peace but not investing in it at home #NigeriaNAP
  47. When we bellyfull now, we give away AND we are one humanity ie need to fund peace in Nigeria AND contribute externally #NigeriaNAP
  48. @ProfLizKelly it’s the launch of the National Action Plan on women, peace and security – Bilkisu Yusuf & Lydia Umar are amazing #NigeriaNAP
  49. #NigeriaNAP needs to be implemented so women can have development, peace and equality – Bilkisu Yusuf
  50. OH ‘I’m tired of being on the menu, I want to be at the table’ women talking about decision making #NigeriaNAP #yay
  51. Do you gender at work/outside and surrender at home? #NigeriaNAP. Time to think again. Send your email for a soft copy of the NAP Document
  52. Contact nsrp.comms@ng.britishcouncil.org for a copy of the NAP.
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AARX Press Release: Survey shows government ‘Go Home’ message is ‘unacceptable’

Think people are as anti-immigration as the government? Think again.

Action Against Racism and Xenophobia

An independent network of researchers have gathered opinions from diverse communities in Leeds, London and Birmingham – and found that the majority of those surveyed disagreed with the approach used in government campaigns against immigration. The research team also found that the public is uncertain what the government is trying to achieve through these campaigns, with almost a quarter believing that the aim was to increase intolerance.

In response to public concerns about the use of the ‘go home’ van in diverse areas of London and the allegations that immigration checks in London stations targeted non-white travellers for questioning, a group of independent researchers have taken to the streets of multicultural Britain to find out what ordinary citizens make of these tactics.

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya from the group explained,

“These Home Office campaigns target highly diverse neighbourhoods and impact on the lives of people there. We wanted to get a…

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mediation, violence against women and girls and gender roles in Plateau state

Between 13th and 16th August, the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme held training in Jos in Plateau state. The first 2 days was a training of trainers session for 20 participants. On Thursday, 20 young people joined us and our trainers had a chance to put their training into action.

  1.  
     
     
    Am in Jos now for mediation training for Trainers organised by National Stability and Recounciliation Program Nigeria @NSRP
  2.  
     
     
    It can be amazing when we take time to share the meaning of the names we bear…names are powerful!! @NSRProgramme #Mediation Training!
  3.  
     
     
    @Smaguire12 talks about equality of all persons and the place of respect.@NSRProgramme
  4.  
     
     
    NSRP supports initiatives aimed at better management of conflict and reduction of the impact of violent conflict in Nigeria.
  5.  
     
     
    Talking about stereotypes and prejudice. People with disabilities seen as not being able to do anything. This makes us angry. #nsrp
  6.  
     
     
    I am an Islamic teacher – people think I train terrorists/ jihadis. I am the one to tell you who I am am, not the other way around. #nsrp
     
  7.  
     
     
    .@ibeabuchiii talks about perceptions of not seeing disabled women as sexual beings and that they are more vulnerable to rape #nsrp
  8.  
     
     
    #Communication is vital for #Conflict prevention-@NSRPProgramme on #Mediation training
  9.  
     
     
    Working closely w/#youth is vital for #Conflict prevention in #Communities-@NSRPProgramme training on #Mediation
  10.  
     
     
    Now talking about negotiating land use between farmers and pastoralists in the Plateau and potential for conflict #nsrp
  11.  
     
     
    For Fulani man, anything green belongs to animals – doesn’t go down well with farmers! Says Amina re pastoralists/ farmers dispute #nsrp
  12. Just got a mentee @NSRProgramme on #Mediation….connection has been amazing! @ChitraNagarajan pic.twitter.com/TeNnxBvx10
     
  13. We watched the amazing Daughters of the Niger Delta: http://www.daughtersofthenigerdelta.org/
  14.  
     
     
    1 out of 7 children in Niger #delta estimated to die before age of five – far outnumber casualties of reported violence & kidnappings #nsrp
  15.  
     
     
    Maternal mortality rate in the core Niger #Delta is the second highest in the world #nsrp
  16. A participant @NSRProgramme facilitating a session..well done #nsrp for including persons w/ #Disabilities!! pic.twitter.com/j9Idn1zRok
     
  17.  
     
     
    Women most affected as do river fishing & men do ocean fishing and rivers are more polluted than oceans #delta #nsrp
  18.  
     
     
    Nigeria flares more natural gas than any other country – toxic particles carried and fall as rainwater #delta #nsrp
  19.  
     
     
    Women have to alternate livelihoods as can no longer fish b/c pollution; instead buy imported fish to sell – less sustainable #nsrp #delta
     
  20.  
     
     
    Now hearing of woman who got all As at university but got 3rd class degree b/c wouldn’t sleep w lecturer – now can’t find job #nsrp #delta
  21.  
     
     
    Since 1960s and first extraction, more than 3x oil spilt in #delta than that spilt into Gulf of Mexico in 2010 #nsrp
  22.  
     
     
    If a woman at uni tells me her lecturer is sexually harassing her, I advise her to leave – b/c you can’t fight; nobody listens #nsrp #delta
  23.  
     
     
    Cash crops eg yam are easier to produce than labour intensive ones eg cassava but women don’t have start up capital to grow #nsrp #delta
  24.  
     
     
    Most women not able to build up savings so little to fall back upon if lose husbands & property allocated to them by tradition #nsrp #delta
  25.  
     
     
    Only very few men will go far in assisting women – want to sit at the table & be served & wait for wife or kids to clear plates #nsrp #delta
  26.  
     
     
    Why can men whose wife dies marry & woman whose husband dies not marry? have to leave all children & money if you want to marry #nsrp #delta
  27.  
     
     
    Women have not been part of decision making in communities – men sit there and make all the decisions #nsrp #delta
  28.  
     
     
    If come together to prioritise needs, women want healthcare & water but men want buildings that give aesthetic beauty #nsrp #delta
  29.  
     
     
    Fragile peace will not be sustainable without protecting people’s right to food, water and healthy environment #nsrp #delta
  30.  
     
     
    Women gather and go to chiefs and pastors to ask them to do something about widowhood rites so we can get our freedom #nsrp #delta
  31.  
     
     
    Nothing is done about sexual harassment & since nobody does anything to discipline, nobody (girls) wants to learn #nsrp #delta
  32.  
     
     
    @chitranagarajan I agree with u, sexual harrasment is on the increase in our communities and so is the silence. #nsrp #delta
  33. What’s the cause of women’s oppression? asks the facilitator <wow, big question #patriarchy #poverty #nsrp #delta pic.twitter.com/2grO5J8UEo
     
  34.  
     
     
    So, my #nsrp #delta tweets are of event that is part of my work at @nsrprogramme – have been doing mediation life skills training all week
  35. We then go on to talking about what is expected of girls/ young women and boys/ young men
  36.  
     
     
    @ChitraNagarajan is facilitating a session on societal roles and perceptions in communities @NSRProgramme #Mediation training in #Jos
     
  37.  
     
     
    Being a boy in Plateau – you are expected to provide security and defend the family and loved ones, be strong physically #nsrp
  38.  
     
     
    Boys in Plateau are expected to be responsible, educated, hard working and protect the family #nsrp
     
  39.  
     
     
    Boy in plateau state thinks he is the leader of the house and can do whatever he wants says one of our young girls #nsrp
  40. Boys in Plateau work but tend to be quite wasteful with money – drink etc > talking about masculinities #nsrp pic.twitter.com/38qBsG57lR
     
  41.  
     
     
    Being a boy in Plateau mean that you go to school more than girls as their lives are curtailed as seen as going to another house #nsrp
  42.  
     
     
    Women w/ disabilities have to rely on caregivers and often when caregivers get angry, they threaten to abandon them says @ibeabuchiii #nsrp
  43.  
     
     
    Girls expected to be fragile, home-makers, supposed to be at home crying & praying to meet guys, a sex machine, denied right to edu #nsrp
  44. War is cause of disability, affects us greatly. We can contribute to its resolution but overlooked says Grace #nsrp pic.twitter.com/z2in7qOBQG
     
  45.  
     
     
    #women w/#Disabilities are often physically less capable of defending themselves in cases of #Violence and #rape @UNWomenWatch @UN_Women
  46.  
     
     
    Talking about women with hearing difficulties not able to hear dangers around them when they go to the stream to get water #nsrp
  47.  
     
     
    #Violence against #women w/ #Disabilities has similiarities with violence against other women bt has unique dimensions as well @UNWomenWatch
  48.  
     
     
    Don’t look at your 16 yo daughter as 3 yo you are taking to the park – says attendee after hearing story of girl abused by boyfriend #nsrp
  49.  
     
     
    #women w/#Disabilities usually have less #access to information about how to protect themselves against#Violence and #rape@UNWomenWatch
  50.  
     
     
    Talking about barter system at IDP camps whereby disabled women are forced to have sex in return for being helped #nsrp
  51.  
     
     
    More vulnerable women, more likely to experience violence & less likely to be helped – who listens to girl w/ mental health issues? #nsrp
  52. Wow, me & @smaguire12 are blown away by @ibeabuchiii – we have found a superb gender trainer #nsrp pic.twitter.com/PxrCIbJM9c
     
  53.  
     
     
    Talking about importance of realising correlation between women’s ability to participate in peacebuilding & violence they experience #nsrp
  54.  
     
     
    #women can play important roles in conflict resolution.They need space, Visibility and space for action-@NSRProgramme #Mediation training
  55.  
     
     
    In 2013, we can sit together in a mixed group and talk re HIV, she was wounded in her vagina & domestic violence. That is progress #nsrp
     
  56.  
     
     
    The ongoing#Mediation training organised by @NSRprogramme has provided platform for networking & action.
  57. Now talking about different forms of gender based violence against women #nsrp #vaw pic.twitter.com/VqbTf3yPQK
     
  58.  
     
     
    To break the silence on #vaw, need to create awareness, involve women in decision making, men need to challenge other men #nsrp
  59. Young people deep in discussion with mentors of case studies on #vaw #nsrp instagram.com/p/dEj2kDTZnu/
  60.  
     
     
    ‘When you throw stone in market, don’t know whose head it will fall on’ – Hausa saying used to explain why ppl should work together #nsrp
  61.  
     
     
    #youths help to build bridges across communities, helping address the root causes and outcomes of insecurity @NSRProgramme
  62.  
     
     
    #youths are on the frontline of most #Conflicts, making them vital stakeholders in #peacebuilding efforts @NSRProgramme
  63.  
     
     
    There is a new generation of #Peace builders emerging from #Nigeria;they are raising their voices & making impacts daily @NSRProgramme
  64.  
     
     
    So proud of our young trainees on NSRP mediation course – youth says he was perpetrator but now knows he must stop abusing girls.

white domination, challenge and the feminist movement – ‪#solidarityisforwhitewomen‬ and what it meant for me

Around this time last week, just before going to bed, I happened to check my Twitter timeline to find it full of #solidarityisforwhitewomen. The origins of the hashtag are explained here and Mikki Kendall who started it wrote about it here and discussed it here. I want to write about my experience and how I felt it opened up a new way of discussing race within white dominated feminist movements for me. [Please note: this is not just limited to the feminist movement. Many movements have a long history of inadequately integrating race, sexuality, gender identity, disability, class and/ or gender.]

Let me be clear here. When I write about this, I locate myself firmly within the feminist movement. When I talk about feminism and issues around race, I do not see it as being separate from me. Despite the one impulse I had to write a letter of resignation to the feminist movement in 2012 (always one for the dramatic gesture), I have considered myself a feminist and part of the movement since I knew these things existed. I refuse to let anything or anyone tear me away from a movement that means so much to me – politically and personally.

I originally did not see why #solidarityisforwhitewomen was such a big deal. After all, it was full of the kind of conversations I have with my black feminist friends all the time – and even with the few white feminist friends that I know will listen. Once I started however, I could not make myself stop. In the end, I had to tear myself off Twitter two hours later in the knowledge that I would now only get 4 hours sleep before I needed to be up for work. Why did the conversation appeal to me so much?

I engage about race with white dominated feminist groups all the time. I do it because I feel I must, not because I enjoy it. Even typing the words ‘white domination’ right now, I can predict the sense of discomfort in the reader that the words are likely to produce. This is a mirror of the tension I feel whenever I say those words. That women who talk about patriarchy and male domination all the time are uncomfortable with framing their thinking and analysis in terms of white domination says a lot. The words describe a statement of fact. White people do dominate our society, as they do within many groups of feminists. Naming correctly is important.

I have forced myself to keep on engaging for weeks, months and years, and I have grown weary. Many of us struggle back and forth between engaging and not engaging. I engage because I genuinely like the people involved and I want to support them. I engage because I feel that we must. The issues are too important. I want to show my support and it is critical that the voices, realities and experiences of black women are present. One part of my internal dialogue stresses that, ‘There are always people in the room who do listen, even if they are in the minority – and Chitra – if you reach just a couple of people, that is how change is created.’

What keep me going are the white women with whom I have managed to engage meaningfully and who have truly listened. Feminists and the movement are changing. I can see it happen. Women who considered issues of race, sexuality, disability, class and gender identity as tangential to the feminist struggle beforehand are engaging critically with thinking through how a movement that works towards a linked liberation looks, feels and sounds like. Sometimes, it really does feel like we are at a really exhilarating moment on the cusp of a dynamic and inclusive movement.

Being one of the (many) ones who are trying to shift the movement does take a toll however. Often, the experience drags on me and weighs me down. I feel I am not heard. I can hear people thinking ‘This is an example of that intersectionality thing that I read about’ as if I am their feminist books come to life. My pleas for us to focus on poverty, race, immigration status, exclusion and marginality are taken very seriously – but not beyond the nods and looks of intense concentration when I speak. They seem hardly present in the discussion that follows. They seem to rarely effect long-term focus of organising and mobilising, which continues to be much as it was. As a result, I frequently feel my presence actually has had little impact, apart from to make people think ‘that’s interesting’ for a few minutes, to offer the illusion of diversity and to lend legitimacy with the melanin in my body to whatever is taking place.

When I speak in the spirit of constructive engagement, although I do understand it, I do not enjoy the immediate defensiveness and rush for excuses, rather than attempt to listen and engage in meaningful conversation. People tend to take things very personally. I spend a lot of time thinking about their feelings (while getting little indication that they ever consider mine) and how exactly to phrase things to minimise the shock of what they see as criticism and ensure they do not immediately retreat because they feel attacked.

I continually walk the tightrope of trying to be honest and make my point but doing so in the nicest way possible. I know that this (internal and external) pressure to ‘be nice’ is problematic, especially when the person with whom you are engaging does not reciprocate it. I consciously push my own boundaries of what I feel comfortable with in this regard but it has been really difficult. I am not unusual in this. A lot of black women within the feminist movement feel this responsibility and pressure. We are constantly being asked to educate, but only in ways that are positive, do not make women feel bad and do not suggest critical self-examination may be required.

For me, the conversation created by #solidarityisforwhitewomen was a way of engaging and speaking my experiences without having to worry about the reactions of white women. I could speak out about how I had been feeling and what has been happening without actually directing it at anyone in particular. I did not have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or alienating them but I knew white women were reading – and hoped that what was written by everyone who was tweeting led them to reflect on their own behaviour. It was a way to express what I have felt unable to within most feminist circles. It was the first time I vocalised this (without the qualifications I usually add to make people not feel too bad) outside a black feminist space that was public and where everyone could read my thoughts.

In any case, I was not tweeting for white women. I was tweeting for the other black women in a giant transnational Twitter facilitated consciousness-raising session that validated our experiences and made us feel less alone. That tweets that I sent a week ago are still being retweeted is, I hope, a sign that the impact of #solidarityisforwhitewomen will be felt far beyond the hours that it was trending on Twitter. Of course, in terms of engagement with white women, it was largely one way. Where it will get really exciting is if we can somehow find a way to take it forward into a real, genuine and meaningful dialogue that changes feminist organising so that it (finally) truly includes all women.

we need to change the very language we use to talk about immigrants

A piece I wrote on the language popularly used when talking about immigration was published yesterday on The New Statesman’s blog:

Immigration has rarely been far from newspaper pages in recent times. A report, released last week by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, looked at the 43 million words that made up the content dealing with migrants and migration in all 20 of Britain’s main national daily and Sunday newspapers between 2010 and 2012. It found that the most common word used to describe “immigrants” across broadsheet, mid-market and tabloid newspapers was “illegal”. This far outnumbered any other word. Water based metaphors such as “flood”, “influx” and “wave” were frequently used to describe “immigrants” and “migrants”.

These results fit our current political discourse. We are living in times of severe hostility towards immigrants. The language used shows just how normalised these views have become. I grew up hearing “go home Paki” and seeing those signs everywhere in Oldham in the early 90s when I first arrived in England. I never would have thought it would be the government, not far right racist groups, who would be telling people to “go home” twenty years later.

You can read the rest of it here.

fighting anti-immigrant racism in the UK

A piece of mine on government policy on immigration and activist response has just gone up on The F-Word this evening:

Intense debate and action on immigration is a recurring theme in British politics. Hostility towards immigrants has always been a feature of British society but it seems to have particularly intensified recently. In June, Theresa May introduced a refundable £3,000 bond for visa applicants from countries seen as at high risk of overstaying. In July, a government van campaign seemed to take its lead from far right groups, warning that people should ‘go home or face arrest’ if in the country illegally. The most recent furore has centred around spot-checks of people at underground stations that seem to be targeting only black people. This is hardly news to some of us as it has been happening for some time, but the news of the racial profiling in particular has led to it being picked up by the media and many speaking out against the practice.

I outline things that people can do at the end:
  • Sign the petition and tell Theresa May and the Home Office to stop targeting immigrants
  • Get in touch if you are able to translate rights information into other languages, take part in distributing information on rights and/or conduct the street survey. You can email aarxgroup [@] gmail [dot] com or tweet me (@chitranagarajan)
  • Attend one of these public meetings (registration required)
  • Follow the AARX blog for updates
  • Donate to enable distribution of advice and information, a programme of public education on the reality of immigration, information and resource packs for migrant community organisations and more – get in touch with 0208 478 4513 or rita [dot] chadha [@] ramfel [dot] org

salaries, inequality and international NG0s

Recent research shows a big increase in the salaries of chief executives and directors of international non-governmental organisations in the UK, with thirty organisations now paying six figures compared to nineteen three years ago. The number of staff earning more than £60,000 has also increased by 16% between 2010 and 2012, with these senior members of staff receiving pay rises despite falling income. This was justified  by the NGOs due to the need to attract and retain talent and to ensure salaries were in line with the INGO market.

Now, on the one hand you seem to have people thinking that those working for charities and in development should barely be paid anything at all (as if we are supposed to live on air and water) and on the other hand, you have people justifying these high leaps in salaries at the same time that income is falling.  The truth is, as always, a much more nuanced reality. This debate and controversy over salaries ‘at the top’ captures a partial account of what is actually happening. It is missing the true story – increasing inequality between those in senior management positions and everyone else.

At the same time that there has been this massive inflation at the top, the salaries of a lot of  jobs in the sector have actually gone down over the past five years. In the last two organisations in which I worked, we received pay freezes and/ or cuts in cost of living allowance. Given that the cost of living rose exponentially at the same time, this meant that people are actually being paid less. When positions are advertised after a staff member leaves, it is often at the bottom end of the scale in order to save costs. Anecdotally, it seems that the numbers of these organisations in dispute with those who work for them over pay and conditions is surprisingly high, given that so many of them focus on workers’ rights.  It means a lot when people who genuinely believe in and care about their organisation and the work they do go out on strike. There has been a move towards cutting not just pay but also benefits. Jobs that were once covered by those working at entry-level have now morphed into unpaid internships, with the result that it has become even more difficult to find a paid job in the sector. There have been job losses and redundancies. At the same time, there have been big pay-offs for under-performing chief executives as well as increases in salaries for the already highest paid.

Does this sound like anything else?

Unfortunately, the practice of giving salary increases to senior management at the same time as freezing or cutting salaries of everyone else or making people redundant to ensure parity with the market and to ‘keep talent’ is oddly reminiscent of the corporate sector, most particularly companies in the City. Justification by recourse to looking at benchmarking with the market is one thing, but when the market as a whole in the sector is moving towards a model that rewards those at the top heavily and underpays and undervalues everyone else, what does this mean if you are an organisation supposed to be motivated by a desire for social (including economic) justice?

Cuts to salaries and benefits are often justified by talking about the present economic climate and the need for ‘austerity’. It is getting harder and harder to raise money. Individual giving is falling as supporters suffer the brunt of the recession, government funding is becoming harder to access and trusts and foundations are over-subscibed with grant applications. However, as with so much else, it seems that we are not ‘all in this together.’

What I find completely indefensible is organisations that increase senior management salaries while continuing to employ interns to do actual jobs but not paying them i.e. expecting people to work for free, in some cases full-time, knowing that there are those who will be willing to do so in order to gain the necessary experience to get paid employment. Of course this restricts access to the sector to those who are able to live in London, where most jobs are based, and not be paid for work i.e. primarily to those with family money and/ or accommodation in London. There is an expectation that people need to ‘do their time’ in order to get a job. This largely means  the equivalent of working for free for at least a year on a full-time basis. Who can afford to do that in London? The only reason I managed to get a job in the sector was because I lived in China after university. I ‘did my time’ there doing an unpaid internship but able to cover my living expenses by picking up relatively well paid work and living in a country where the cost of living is relatively low. There was no way I could have afforded to work for free while living in London.

The international sector in the UK is already dominated by white, middle/ upper class, southern English people. Often, when I was working in London, I would look around and see that I was the only black person in the room when the topic was peacebuilding or development in Africa or Asia. Once, I discussed women’s political participation in West Africa with five white European men. The irony of this was not lost on me, even if it was something that nobody else in the room seemed to notice. I fear that, given increasing barriers to entry to the sector given our changing economic times since the start of the recession, this lack of diversity will increase even further.

I have not even written about power imbalances in the sector between European/ North American members of staff and their colleagues in the countries in which the organisations work. That is the subject of a whole other blog post!

Organisations that are so closely aligned to work to redress and rebalance power and economic inequalities should not fail to look internally too. There needs to be a fundamental review of the kind of sector we want to be and what values we stand for.