I love researching, but I also want my research to contribute to policy. I’ve struggled with this, wondering how to do it. The blog post by Sarah Morton, “Bridging the gap between research and policy” from LSE Blogs is helpful. I admit that I’ve yet to work with policy makers. I’ve always wanted to do it. Sarah Morton writes that it’s is important to develop trust with stakeholders, and this may take time.
I think this is where I’m at: developing steps with one of the stakeholders involved in the topic of gender. Since 2017, I have been conducting interviews to staff working at the Secretary for Women in Medellín. They have been really open and helpful, talking about their work, their programs, and connecting me with women’s organizations and activists in Medellin.
One tireless, hardworking staff member, Gloria Montoya, has been invaluable for my research and in helping me understand the work of the Secretary for Women. She’s come to my International Relations class to give talks on gender and helped set up the recent fieldwork to San Antonio el Prado so that my students could visit the Secretary’s programs aimed at rural women empowerment.
Yesterday (May 17), Gloria invited me (and other universities) take part of an academic roundtable to update the Policy for Urban and Rural Women in Medellin organized by the Secretary for Women.
(At EAFIT University with the Secretary for Women. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)
The policy focuses on Security, Health, Peace, and Education, Participation. I worked at the Security roundtable. Two civil servants from the Secretary for Women, a student from EAFIT and UNAL, and me discussed the situation of (in)security of women in Medellin and what changes were needed in the current strategies to protect women. We noticed that most of the strategies were aimed at intervening when women had already suffered some form of violence (e.g. domestic violence), yet the current strategies did not seem to tackle the prevention of gender-based violence. We discussed that a possible strategy could be including information of gender-based violence in schools.
Another issue we found important was sexual harassment in academic spaces. It has become epidemic and only recently visible in the media in Colombia. Unfortunately, it is very common professors (mostly male) harassing female students (and male students). I’ve had female students come up to me to tell me how uncomfortable they have felt with some male professors. At the roundtable, we realized that sexual harassment in academic settings do not appear in policy strategies.
This roundtable was the first of various meetings that will take place between various universities and the Secretary for Women. This experience was new to mee and I’m learning. I definitely look forward to more discussions with policy makers to improve the lives of many women.