It’s critical we learn how to truly engage and work with leaders flipping power dynamics even if it means dismantling our own systems of power.
Yesterday in Tijuana, Mexico, we kicked off a major conference on Gender, Childhood, and Youth on the Move in collaboration with Espacio Migrante, Fondo Semillas, Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, the Seattle International Foundation, and the International Community Foundation. The opening panel featured voices of powerful migrant women mobilizing for justice and working to change cultural norms.
They described personal struggles in the face of what they identified as patriarchal, machista, colonial cultural and economic norms. One comment by an indigenous leader from Chiapas, Mexico struck me as particularly instructive for those of us who aim to support such amazing leaders. Even as she becomes internationally recognised for her leadership, she offers a strong critique of the way support networks typically operate. ‘When they look at you as a leader, they want to buy you. They say they will give you this if you do that,’ she said. ‘What matters is that I do what I want.’
For those of us in positions of privilege, working to change a system that tends to reinforce the norms these leaders aim to disrupt, it’s critical to act in ways that truly honour local leaders’ intentions to #shiftthepower, whether or not those with power are ready to have it shifted from them. As a white male of relative privilege in this space, I’m hoping to learn how to better work in true solidarity with these inspiring organizations and activists. I tremendously value the chance to learn from their experiences how Global Fund for Children, the organisation I have the privilege to lead, can work more effectively with such leaders around the world.
John Hecklinger is president and CEO of Global Fund for Children