Who we are

Martina – Editor

Ilaria-2I have worked and lived in East Africa and the Middle East for the past 5 years, mainly focusing on gender issues. After a few intense years working in emergencies, I recently moved to London but I still travel regularly to places with no water and plenty of land cruisers.

I am currently living with my girlfriend Elisabeth and I am slowly re-learning to enjoy the comforts of a big city. Mainly brunches and theatre plays. And, of course, gay bookstores.

Rachel – Editor

RachelI left my country 14 years ago. One of the things I like the most about living in a foreign country is how other cultures have challenged my beliefs and underlined assumptions. Un-learning is a painful but rewarding process.

As an aid worker, I believe in what we do but not necessarily in how we do it. I take inspirations from other people’s resilience. I look forward to the day when nobody will give a monkey’s about other people’s sexual orientation and love will not be criminalised anywhere in the world.

I only have one secret.

Tori – Author

profile pic toriI am new to foreign aid work and am just over a year into my first project in rural Oaxaca. In my spare time I like to challenge gender stereotypes and ask a lot of questions. My focuses include environmental education and climate change adaptations, and of course, feminism.

5 thoughts on “Who we are”

  1. Thank you. SO much…to the three of you for seeing the need for this space, for creating it. I’m a lesbian and lucky enough to be legally married to my partner. But we live in a country in East Africa, and so we hide. It’s painful, it’s lonely and it’s just so, so wrong.

    I recently worked for a faith-based organisation and had to actually lie (was advised by my head office)…after 3 years of this, I hated myself, I hated my colleagues and I hated my job, so I left. It was too hard to stay true to my motivation for working in development when faced with the prejudice and hurtful words (ie when the subject came up in general office conversation).

    I look forward to the sharing that will take place in this forum. I couldn’t find a support group at a time when I desperately needed it, but would be grateful to join your community here online. It helps to know there are others out there with similar experiences.

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    1. Thank YOU so much Sam!

      This is the best encouragement we could have received to continue working on this blog. This is exactly what I would like this space to become. A safe space for people to find support, feel a little less lonely, seek advise or just remember that it is hard, but it is possible.

      I am very sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds really painful and, as you say, so wrong. Sadly so common, too. I wonder how many people even feel comfortable sharing their identity with their employers and of those brave ones who do, how many are, like you, officially “advised” or “required” to hide who they are. I also wonder if those people in HQ vaguely understand what that means for us, for our chances to be happy and satisfied in our work and our lives. I doubt they do, and I hope that this blog will also help us shed some light on the impact of these policies, on the consequences of this terrible disconnect.

      If you would like to share more about your story and experience, I am sure it would be very valuable. We want everyone to feel free to contribute to this blog and the sharing that it will hopefully bring about, so please get in touch (have a look at the Write for Us section) if you would like to write a guest post.

      Thanks again!

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  2. Thanks so much to all of you! I stumbled onto this blog after following series of links on a Guardian article and was fascinated to find a community of women like myself! I feel like I’ve been searching for something like this for a while. My partner and I are also development workers based in Africa. We’re certainly not out to our colleagues and to be honest I’m not brave enough to even contemplate it. While we’ve never been/felt threatened I sometimes wonder how long we can continue to live like this. Thank you for creating a community that we can share and reach out to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you somewhere in Africa!

      That’s exactly why we started the blog, we have been lonely for too long. It would be great to hear about your experience living abroad with your partner, as I am sure it is a situation common to many of us, but not something I can speak to directly I am afraid 😉 Let us know if you would like to write a little entry for the blog, it will all be confidential of course!

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  3. Hi, what a great and much needed forum for us in similar situations! I’m still in the process of dealing with my experiences from working with humanitarian aid in various parts of Africa for many years. I never faced discrimination but rather discriminated my true self by so comfortably slipping into the identity of “if you don’t speak about it they will assume you’re straight”. I worked closely with refugee communities and always got along very well, and didn’t see the reason for bringing up the fact that I fall for women (and men). It could have compromised my work results that depended on mutual respect and understanding. It was comfortable enough, but looking back at it, I’m thinking: Those people who appreciated me so much only knew part of me. They wanted what was best for me according to their standards and kept trying to get me married and have kids so that I would be a respectable woman.
    I now live in Finland with my girlfriend and our son. I want to be part of a support network for aid workers in similar situations. It hurts not to be genuine to oneself, and it must be possible for us who don’t fall into the norm to be accepted the way we are, if not in the location we work in, then with peers on the net. Thank you for this great initiative! I will soon blog about this topic on my website for the Helsinki Center for Humanitarian and Migrant Coaching, a center I’m starting up as we speak. All the best! We’re celebrating our Pride week in Helsinki this week!

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