Mercy Machisa

Mercy Machisa

Date: March 14, 2011
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My learning journey

Joining the Gender Based Violence Indicators project was, in my initial perspective, an opportunity to exercise and gain experience in the research skills that I had already acquired from academia. Little did I imagine that it was an opportunity that would entail growth in many other diverse aspects.

I have been afforded the opportunity to enhance my writing skills, something I have not pursued in the past ten or so years. Ten years ago, I had to write so well to get good English grades and to escape a stern discussion with my parents at the end of the term. Joining GL from an academic research programme with a different style of writing was a challenge. My writing therefore had to be “simplified”, “to be readable to the public”. I remember so often the reminder to “put away everything and start from a clean slate”. “So what are the key issues?” Often I have to recall these instructions as I write and it has helped to improve my work.

The journalistic skills I have accumulated thus far have proved a personal advantage and have allowed me to broaden my capacity and scope of work. Not only can I conduct research but I am now better able to present research findings in a simple manner that the public can engage with, something many academics fail to do. I have also been exposed to my inadequacies, for example the communication skills necessary for effective advocacy work. Through my engagement and presentations at different platforms I have seen the need to improve my spoken English and even a desire to learn some of the local languages.

Gender was a subject that I had not engaged in mainly because of my academic orientation. Being at GL has changed this. I have had to brush up on my knowledge of the issues and part of this has also been through gender training. One impact of this exposure has been the way I see things. I have acquired a so-called “gender lens” that I previously did not have. When in a meeting, on a shuttle or in public spaces I am quick to check how many women there are as compared to men. Another change is that I have become more aware and vocal about issues that occur on a daily basis but are a violation of human and more so women’s rights. I see myself as slowly converting from a mere researcher to an activist researcher.

Being at GL has been an opportunity to work on and improve on my people skills. Through the research work I have engaged with many diverse cultures, particularly with the different researchers we had. I was made aware of different contexts and learnt to embrace all. Often there were misunderstandings of the way the work had to be done so I learnt how to deal with conflict in a way that did not deter the work or undermine or discourage the researchers. When access issues became a concern, I learnt how to steer morale and encourage the team. Working with that group allowed me to become a better team player. This is also true on a day to day basis as a member of the justice team and the greater GL team. “One cannot work in isolation” has been one of my major lessons.

Mercy Machisa is the Gender-Based Violence Indicators Project Manager at Gender Links.


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