Shadhika Shadhika

The practice of a trauma-informed framework in how Shadhika defines professionalism and how Shadhika does our grantmaking is not just a moral obligation but also a matter of survival.

Gender Injustice is Chronic Trauma

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

April 25, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Around the world, women and girls are leading in crisis response. 

The Muslim female students are standing up for their right to an education at a time when religious violence reaches new heights in India. 

Women are leading in the humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine, galvanizing their communities to meet the needs of refugees in Europe and in the U.S.

The advancement of women and girls in education and in political positions represents one of the top solutions to mitigate climate-related disasters globally.

Yet, women and girls continue to do this with less political power, less security, and fewer resources. 

This chronic state of scarcity has real consequences on the emotional and physical health of women and girls. It consumes mental bandwidth, can create tunnel vision, and prioritizes short-term gains over long-term goals–which is counterproductive in any system change movement. 

The nexus between a state of chronic scarcity and poor physical health is well established and often leads to adverse health outcomes, including preventable illnesses such as anxiety and stress, weight gain, heart diseases, substance abuse, etc. 

The trauma of living and operating under this type of duress is real. At Shadhika, we see it affect our colleagues, our local partners, and our program participants. It shows up in the form of forgetfulness, task avoidance, loss of motivation, fear, or conflict. And the gendered effects of the pandemic have only exacerbated these conditions for women and girls.

So while women and girls are leading their community’s response to emergencies and crises, they are burning the candle at both ends. 

Therefore, as we promote women and girls’ participation in creating solutions to our most complex and pressing issues, we cannot forget the ongoing circumstances in which they do so and we must adopt a trauma-informed lens in our work. 

Indeed, to work effectively in the gender justice space means having knowledge of the adversity and trauma that are pervasive and insidious in this type of work, and factoring in their effects on individuals and communities when we plan how we work, how we communicate, and how we gather. 

This means doing our very best to foster choice, safety, trust, collaboration, and empowerment. For example, when we are working on tight deadlines, we must try to offer people the chance to choose the most expedient yet comfortable way to give input or provide feedback. It means that, when we ask someone to tell their story, we outline the safety measures in place at the onset of the request, including the choice to opt out. It also means that, when we gather, we offer space and time for rest because it is not unproductive time, but it is how we honor and factor in the conditions in which women and girls do this work so we can be more effective.

As we mark Dalit History Month and Ramadan in April, and we pledge to work more intentionally with local partners who serve women and girls from Scheduled Castes and Tribes in India, it is a priority that we acknowledge the painful experiences of these communities, as well as the hardship and violence women-led organizations face daily, by increasing our own trauma awareness and language.

The practice of a trauma-informed framework in how Shadhika defines professionalism and how Shadhika does our grantmaking is not just a moral obligation but also a matter of survival. That practice is not just in alignment with Shadhika’s feminist and anti-colonialist values, but it is also how we sustain ourselves to create systemic change.

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