June 19, 2017

Princeton Ombuds Launches Project to Help Women Share Their Stories

In 2014, Wokie Nwabueze, the Ombuds Officer at Princeton University, started interviewing women to collect their wisdom and share their stories.  The effort matured into the Seen & Heard Project which launched earlier this year.  In an interview with author Jennifer Brown, Nwabueze talks about the project and what she sees as the biggest challenges and obstacles for women when it comes to sharing their voice.  Nwabueze also reveals how her own experiences have shaped her ability to become more sensitive, empathetic, and observant.

Her work in this area clearly relates to her Ombuds work.  Here's a brief excerpt of the hour-long interview:
I’ve worked with everyone from little kids to incarcerated people to CEOs, men, women, people from around the world, and we have the same challenges ultimately. Because communication is what it is. I think it’s a dance of connection between people. It’s a way to be seen, to express, and also take in somebody’s perspective, their voice, their expression, and we move together in this dance when we’re communicating. We all do it, we all need to do it, and doing it well is fundamentally the same for me across the board.
There are elements that have to exist for everybody, and we struggle with those elements for different reasons. It’s not necessarily based on race, but issues might come up that have to do with our personal experience which could tie to race.
So just to put that in context, for example in every conversation we have- not every single interaction, but let’s say if you’re having a dialogue with your boss at work and you want to ask for something, you need to be clear about what your agenda is, what your motivation is, what the purpose and the goal of the conversation is, and to do that you need to have a sense of your own needs and your own desires.
Women struggle with that because in a lot of ways we’re taught not to be greedy, not to ask for too much, not to rock the boat, and so we all struggle with that. But if we want to break it down and look at race, then we need to look at ourselves as individuals and begin to relate how who you are, and how you’ve had to walk through the world, how you’ve experienced other people, how they’ve experienced you, how has that affected your ability to be able to know what you want? To be able to value your desires?
So when we get to that level we can start to look at individual experiences that might revolve around race, culture, nationality, identity, all of those things because for each of us it plays out differently. Which it’s not to say that a woman of one race or another couldn’t have the exact same experience, they could. I think if we generalize, which in this case I wouldn’t, we might find that people from certain backgrounds struggle with some things more than others, but I say that our experiences is frankly very similar.
That’s what we don’t see. We assume that because somebody’s a certain race perhaps they’re stronger, or perhaps they’re more sensitive, or weaker, and I think that those stereotypes are very, very untrue.
The full interview with Jennifer Brown is available as a podcast.  The website for Seen & Heard is beautiful and full of great content.  (Jennifer Brown Speaks; Seen & Heard.)

No comments:

Post a Comment