Ruth Ansah Ayisi

Ruth Ansah Ayisi

Date: March 4, 2011
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My personal journey

My personal journey with Gender Links was fast-tracked soon after its birth when I was invited to co-facilitate a journalism workshop on gender-based violence in Zimbabwe.

At the time, I was based in Maputo. I flew to Johannesburg, where I left for Harare with the co-facilitators early in the morning from Gender Links’ first “office” – the garage belonging to Colleen Lowe Morna, the Executive Director and founder of Gender Links. A wealth of materials for the workshop emerged from that garage which we piled into Colleen’s car. Due to budget limitations, Colleen drove us to Zimbabwe.

Although I had worked in the area of gender for many years, it was this workshop that really focused my interest on gender-based violence and made me realise campaigning against it and raising awareness about gender inequalities did not have to be ghettoised to committed women. Male journalists were keen to learn about the issue and to express their own ideas – some of which were not too progressive admittedly – but others were.

Gender Links taught me how to make the issue of “gender” engaging, lively and relevant to both men and women from all backgrounds. It was not just a workshop of talking heads; we devoted an entire day to field work which resulted in our producing an informative supplement with moving stories for a local newspaper. It was a strategy I would repeat again when I was facilitating workshops, not just for Gender Links, but also for organisations that focused specifically on HIV/AIDS and malaria.

I learnt too that to collaborate with Gender Links, you need to be robust! After a long, but rewarding day in the field with Zimbabwean journalists gathering stories showing the different types of gender violence, we worked at the Daily News media house with the layout staff until 3 am. Fortunately the next day, it was only a half day before we drove back to Johannesburg. Colleen still as fresh as a daisy, drove us home! Despite my efforts not to, I slept for most of the journey.

Since that workshop, Gender Links has given me the opportunity to co-facilitate workshops on gender based violence in Angola, Mauritius, and Mozambique. I also have had the opportunity to work in the governance area, working on a cutting-edge research project on gender and politics in Mozambique as well as facilitating another workshop; this time on how women politicians in Mozambique can relate better to the media. I was struck by how enthusiastic and appreciative the women politicians were.

I have also welcomed the opportunity to be a board member of Gender Links. It has given me the unique opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas with a diverse, vibrant and a highly experienced team.

My journey with Gender Links has been rich. I have learnt firsthand how humble beginnings can lead to bigger and greater achievements as long as there is passion and commitment. I am happy to still be on the Gender Links journey.

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