Rouben Moonien – Mauritius

Rouben Moonien – Mauritius

Date: May 29, 2012
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As Chief Health Inspector in Curepipe, I am the Head of Department and have over 300 employees working under me. Before I followed the first workshop with Gender Links, I thought that “gender” meant women, and I was a bit embarrassed to have anything to do with the topic. Little did I realize that gender meant both women and men, and how both sexes are perceived in society, as well as the role of both in society. Gender Links was a real eye opened. I can now safely say that I am gender sensitive, and that this change happened thanks to Gender Links. Two workshops were enough to make me change my perceptions, and also change the way that I work.

Quite a few major structures fall under my remit at work, which means that gender issues form part of my everyday life. I have to make sure that Curepipe is a clean environment with a decent and clean market. Public lavatories must maintain a good standard of hygiene. The cemetery, the crematorium and anything that has to do with sanitation fall under my portfolio. Now, I make sure that both women and men participate in all the work that I do. Women do much better than men in certain jobs. My Principal Health Inspector is a woman and there are another two Health Inspectors who are women. We contract work a lot, for example, for cleaning but I can assure you there are now lots of women in these fields and they do really well.

The work that I do at the Municipal Council of Curepipe has a direct bearing on the security of women and girls; I never realized this so explicitly before. I have to make sure that wasteland lands are safe, rivers are clean, streets are safe and women have enough opportunities to sell their goods in the markets.

We do everything to make sure that the community at large lives in a clean environment but unfortunately there is still a group of citizens who do not care, and will throw waste all over the place, or dig bare land to bury their dead animals. When transgressions like this take place, it is always women who suffer disproportionately. I learned to see this through Gender Links. The first GL workshop that I attended was indeed an eye and and ear opener, as this was the first time that I realised that sex and gender are two different things. But my second experience was the best. A strategic campaign on Climate change! The project was too irresistible to be taken lightly. I put my full weight into the project (and that is no small thing!). The project is in direct line with the work that I do and I thought that by taking charge, this will help me even better in my work. After the workshop I gave some thought to the matter, and decided to move forward with tree plantation and backyard composting, a project that very often includes more women than men.

This project was developed the Gender Links way. I met with stakeholders that have something to do with Climate Change and sustainable development, including the Ministries of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment. In some cases I got in kind support as well as fruit plants and other medicinal and decorative plants for free. The Municipal Council provided a budget. Flyers were printed and I also did an evaluation and monitoring questionnaire to know the impact of the work. I held a press conference on the strategic campaign, and I then did a launch with all stakeholders and invited the media.

Knowing gender concepts better have changed my life in many ways. I now know that climate change affects women more than men. Each time I do a project, I make sure that women are involved in the project. By changing my life, this has led to changes in the community. Working with school children has been another added value. They in turn have trained their parents to become environmentally conscious. Gender Links has really helped me to change my mindset. Without Gender Links ,the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was something abstract and irrelevant to me. Now I refer to the articles of the SADC Protocol when writing projects.

The project has shown me that women are very responsive, and at a grass roots level, women understand and adapt to new strategies better than men. Women have proved that they must be given an equal say in any decision-making process, particularly in matters related to environment. This change in my work would not have happened without the help of Gender Links. The strategic campaign on Climate Change and Sustainable Development has set a whole machine in motion, and I seized this opportunity to take up the issue of climate change. Women have contributed enormously to the success of this project.

In addition to these very important strategic shifts in mindset and approach, Gender Links has given me very useful technical skills as well. For example, Gender Links helped me develop a power point presentation; this has been important, because I was in charge of such a big campaign and had to deal with lots of people. IT skills were essential in getting my message out to them.

This piece of work has now started to show good results, and I want to reach other regions and share my experiences. Empowering women and combatting GBV should happen in all localities in Mauritius. Men, women, and children are equally concerned and conscious in environmental matters. However, I have seen that women are by far more responsive to such a project.

An unexpected outcome of this work has been the shift from a predominantly male dominated hierarchy in decision making bodies to an equal gender representation in many places. In the future, I want to expand this to other areas. For example, I represented Mauritius at the Olympic games in Athens in 2004 and I am the President of the Volley Ball Federation of Mauritius. Now that I am gender sensitive, I hope that through my collaboration with Gender Links, Mauritius will see more sportswomen, and sports can be a tool to combat GBV.


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