COVID-19 : How we are responding?

Dear Friends, Partners and Supporters,

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges our known world has faced. As the world tries to navigate this global public health crisis, we at GATE have equally had to adapt to the crisis in a bid to keep all team members and project participants safe and to continue with our important work. Since our project has been designed to support the development of gender expertise and capacities in research and education at DUCE, Tanzania, this international collaboration has been challenged to seek new and innovative ways to still achieve the goals and objectives of this participatory action research project.

Working truly remotely from our individual “locked-in” environs, we thought it would be a good idea to update you by giving you an idea of how our international team of researchers are adapting to the current challenges. Hence, we will be ‘blogging’ over the next month on how work and project life have changed for us as a result of the pandemic, and how our activities on the GATE project is being shaped by this crisis.

Starting with the latter, this crisis has quite significantly affected major dissemination and engagement activities for the 2019/2020 academic year. The organisers of the 2nd International Conference in Gender and Higher Education planned to take place at DUCE in April has now been postponed to November. A new initiative within Trinity College Dublin to engage with leading African Research Universities, including UDSM, have been postponed until later in the year. Our planned training activities on the topics of implicit bias and gender mainstreaming in pedagogic practice at DUCE have been delayed until later this year. The convened Advisory Board Meetings in 2020 consisting of an international expert panel has had to also be adjoined. We have indeed gone through a challenging period of rescheduling of activities, hoping like the rest of the world, that this current situation would soon be a thing of the past.

However, we have been able to continue with a number of critically important activities and deliverables. Our PhD scholar has returned from Dublin to Tanzania and now continues with her project through remote supervision for the short-term. Our Postdoctoral scholar is also reshaping a number of project activities to focus on desk-based work, including a systematic literature review on the topic of African theories of masculinities. We are working together on a paper exploring gender mainstreaming and masculinities in the Tanzanian context. We are also initiating two desk-based research projects on the areas of student voice and engagement in HEI gender mainstreaming; and a mapping exercise to explore the spatial distribution of knowledge and expertise in gender theory and practice across Tanzania. In addition, we are working on developing a protocol for systematic review of gender literature and engagement at public institutions in Tanzania. This is more of a desk-based research activity that we expect would help as develop a database of best practices and of all gender activities in Higher Education Institutions in Tanzania.

Coordinating and hosting events have been our biggest challenge especially due to the fact that the team consists of international members. To maintain contact and give opportunity to discuss relevant project issues, we have signed up to ‘Zoom’ and via this video communication tool maintain a weekly meet-up session comprising of all members of the team. Thursdays are the GATE Meet-up sessions and accommodates team members working from their home locations and the consequent time difference. It is a time of coming together as a team to check -in on each other, discuss work in a uniquely friendly and cordial team atmosphere. Project issues and actions form an essential part of discussions, and new pathways identified to ensure we meet key deliverables of the project. Except for occasional challenges with network connections, meetings have been productive and helped the team to stay connected.

Our most recent meeting saw us realigning our objectives for this year as a result of the crisis. Consequently, we are focusing efforts on research- collecting data, analysing data, with a key deliverable being to output at least 3 papers for peer review by August 2020. Exciting! Working in smaller teams, we have been energised by the new focus and are working feverishly to meet these new objectives. Fingers crossed; we will be smiling come August and hope to engage in person at the forthcoming conference to be hosted at DUCE in November 2020.

Well, March also saw the successful change of the leadership of the Gender Unit at DUCE, Tanzania. A key milestone and something we are all excited about. Unfortunately, the crisis has had its impact here as well, but after our latest session, we are working with and supporting the new Coordinator and the on-going work at this unit, which we hope to share here in due course.

We will revisit plans related to our annual Conference, annual Expert Advisory Board meeting and Training courses in due course. Until then our hope remains that the situation improves globally and that these programs can take place later on in the year.

We will keep you posted!
Check in again on this site next week for more updates on how the crisis is affecting individual members of our team in their local environs and how they are reacting to their specific challenges.

Until then please Stay Safe and Stay Healthy!

Your GATE Team

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