I have just finished teaching an intense and stimulating course on the topic of Gender and Peace to an eager and dedicated group of graduate students at the United Nations University for Peace campus in Costa Rica. They are an enormously diverse group from nation states in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.  They come from all these places to try to learn about how to help women and girls in their home countries to be freed from various sorts of bondage. They are preparing to dedicate their lives and their work to gender equity, to respect, freedom and safety for all people.

This means something slightly different to each of them and to their countries of origin. That is, the details are different. The area of the Mattering Map[1][2] in which they want to work are differently defined, but are all about issues that matter[3] deeply in achieving gender equity. There is so much left to be done as they join the numerous scholars and activists who have chosen this field to which to devote their time and energy, their hearts and souls.

Some want to work to end the trafficking of women and girls.  This form of sexual slavery has spread across the entire planet and is shockingly rampant in many countries, including the United States, where most citizens believe that slavery was abolished in the 1800’s. Others want to make the streets safe for women, to put an end to domestic and intimate partner violence. In some of their countries, women have no legal rights, including choosing when and whom to marry or divorce.  In many of these countries, girls are married to old men by their families when they are still small children.  Others focus on the issue of literacy in countries where women are not permitted to attend school or even learn to read.

Then there are the women and men who are focusing on men and masculinity, on the damage that the stringent requirements of the masculine ideal exact from boys and men, who are often encouraged to express their masculinity through anger and violence and are denied the full array of human emotions and tenderness in the name of an outdated form of manhood. They ask the question, “What is a man?” and hope to help young boys explore this issue before it is too late for them, before they are taken from their loved ones by the streets or the battles tat they believe prove their manhood.

All these students hope to create a 21st century that does not have to be determined by 12th century or even 19th and 20th century values. They work in the name of peace, respect and gender equality.  They work toward the goal of a better life for all of us.  I have been honored to be able to contribute to their journeys.  My heart and soul are in this work also.

[1] Kaschak, E. The mattering map: morphing and multiplicity. In Bruns, C. and Kaschak, E.(Eds.)  Feminist Therapy in the 21st Century, Taylor and Francis, 2010.

[2] Kaschak, E. (2013)  The Mattering Map: Confluence and Influence, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37:4.

[3] Kaschak, E. (2010).  The Mattering Map: Immigrant Assessment and Treatment. Women and Therapy, 36:3-4.

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