by Sarah Lukaszczyk

Editor’s Note: Sarah is an intern of RE-Charge Pilipinas. A Canadian of Filipino and Polish heritage, she is concurrently pursuing an Honours BES degree in Geography and Environmental Management, with a specialization in Climate Change, and BA degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, Applied Conflict Resolution stream, at the University of Waterloo in Southern Ontario, Canada. This is her first blog post for ICSC.

My second day as an intern at ICSC would begin with a training on GST. Admittedly, I was unsure why I was invited to be part of, what I woefully thought, would be a tax training; You have to understand that in Canada, GST stands for Goods Sales Tax, and as I am part of the RE-Charge Pilipinas team, the only conclusion I could make was, “Well maybe this will broaden my understanding of micro-financing”. Fortunately for me, GST in this context stood for Gender Sensitivity Training.

The training was led by Jing Pura, a gender specialist, and Dr. Maria Dulce F. Natividad from the University of the Philippines’ Asian Center, and was structured to facilitate as much group discussion as possible, with four broader conversations planned over the course of the next two days. This structure lent itself well to the organization’s overall goal of collaboratively drafting a gender policy across teams, as opposed to “copy-pasting” policies from other organizations*. Then again, to an outsider such as myself, the session appeared more like a team bonding session if nothing else.

As the day progressed, with first an overview of the feminist movement, one of the training activities that followed asked the ICSC team to organize themselves according to whether a set of topics (ex. religion, babies, cooking, gender, sexuality) made them feel panicked, challenged or comfort. In addition to the fits of laughter that came from some of the team’s responses, -people panicking at the sight of babies, or the idea of exercise- Jing encouraged the team to brainstorm ways we all could help these individuals feel less panicked. And in the spirit of this activity, I am now going to share times or places where I experienced challenges, panic, and comfort during my first week on the job.

Besides babies and cooking, another apparent challenge of mine is the language of Tagalog. Although I feel I am making strides (a solid 94 words in my dictionary and counting!), this training shed light on how fostering a gender inclusive language is an equal foe I, along with everyone else in the office should spend time in tackling. Bearing this and other cultural differences in mind, everyday I realize similarities between Canada and the Philippines. One similarity that inspires panic in me, however, is how behind both countries are in ensuring and/or improving gender equity and inclusivity. Luckily, momentum has already begun, with a prime example being in the ICSC office.

Compulsory to all work orientations is the office tour, and surprisingly the one my supervisor Golda gave me included a tour of the Wreck Room. Apart from pointing out the rather mundane -although necessary- landmarks of the washrooms, lockers, and kitchen, ICSC has a recreational room complete with toys and books where children can stay when their parents are working. Despite not having children myself (sorry, mom) this office feature is something that brings me great comfort, knowing first-hand how challenging caring for children and raisining a young family can be. For example, when I was younger, finding a babysitter when my parents were called into work spontaneously seemed like a luxury. Therefore, I can imagine the relief they may have felt if they had the option too to bring their kids to work.

Overall, although I know my time here with ICSC is short I am looking forward to learning from all future trainings, and discussions this office has to offer, regardless of the subject matter.

*’Copy-Paste’ is a slang term in the Philippines used when one wants to copy or repeat something that’s already been said or done. Essentially the equivalent to ditto in Canada.