Episode 6: Feminism, decolonisation and learnings from Indigenous knowledge systems.

About this episode:

In Episode #6 of The Power Shift: Decolonising Development, Emilie Tant, who leads work in strategic communications and policy around gender, discusses the links between feminism, decolonisation and climate change. Drawing on their experience of living, working and organising in Santiago (Chile), Emilie reflects on how feminist movements in the majority world are often 10 to 20 years ahead in thinking, compared to international development organisations. Emilie discusses Indigenous concepts such as cuerpo territorio and el buen vivir and reflects on how these value and knowledge systems have the power to flip traditional understanding of development goals. Emilie reflects on legitimacy and ego as a White European person working in decolonisation and talks about the importance of using power and privilege to advance decolonisation efforts.

 If you’re interested to find out more about Emilie’s work, take a look here: LinkedIn

Episode 6: Full Transcript

The Power Shift: Decolonising Development

Episode 6

Feminism, decolonisation and learnings from Indigenous knowledge systems. Emilie Tant interviewed.

Emilie Tant: [00:00:00] There’s a lot of indigenous concepts, for example, like body territory or el buen vivir, which is the good life or good living, which is a whole different way of thinking about the world, you know, instead of focusing on GDP and growth and development that way, you’re thinking about how can we improve el buen vivir for everyone, which is about the social, emotional fulfilment and interconnectedness with nature as well.​ 

Kate Bird: ​Hello. I’m Professor Kate Bird, and I’d like to introduce this our next episode of The Power Shift: Decolonising Development. Today we’re talking to Emilie Tant, who is an intersectional feminist and decolonisation activist. They talk about the links between feminism and decolonization and climate change, how feminist movements in the majority world are often 10 to 20 years ahead of thinking in international organisations. They talk about shapeshifting and symbolic [00:01:00] performance and appropriation. And how the politics is often stripped out of issues that have been taken up by social movements and that strips the power out of those issues. They talk about legitimacy and how as a white activist, they wrestle with the issue of legitimacy.

They talk about indigenous concepts such as body territory and the good life and how those issues could flip over our understanding of goals into development and in which direction learning takes place. They talk about how learning about decolonisation was inherently linked with how to behave as the only White person in feminist groups in Santiago, and the importance of stopping, centering the self to work effectively as a White person in decolonisation.

They [00:02:00] then go on to talk about practical action and the importance of ethical banking as a step that we can all take to ensure that we’re contributing positively in the world. And then they talk about, uh, contracting and development and who is commissioned to write reports also, who is at the table, both when decisions are being made and when presentations are being made about the majority.

They finally talk about the importance of White people being willing to raise their voices when what they see around them is wrong and they know they’re wrong, and how we can use our power and privilege in a positive way. In the decolonisation agenda, listen on for more.​

Charmaine McCaulay: Welcome to the ‘Power Shift: Decolonising Development’, the podcast series that’s seeking to bring together thinkers, practitioners, and activists to share ideas, inspire, change, and identify tools for practical action. 

Hi there again. I’m Charmaine McCauley, [00:03:00] a body psycho therapist, Director of Kokoro and lead facilitator of the groundbreaking training programme ‘Racism in Real Time’. 

I’d like to introduce my co-host, Professor Kate Bird, Director of The Development Hub. 

 As a black psychotherapist and a white development professional, we’re using our own lived experiences and professional skills to frame the way we approach the topic of decolonisation 

Over to you. Lovely. 

Kate Bird: Thanks Charmaine. So I’d like to introduce today’s guest. And today’s guest is Emilie Tant. Emilie works for a London-based think tank, where she contributes to elevating research on gender norms and how intersectional social movements drive deeper social change.

They now live on the border with Scotland after returning to the UK following nearly three years in Chile during which time Emilie was active in the ist movement and first became engaged with the decol agenda.[00:04:00] I’m really delighted to have Emilie here with us. Emilie and I have never met face-to-face, but we’ve been on many shared Zoom calls, particularly in the last kind of three months, actually, so we’ve begun to get to know each other a bit and I’ve always really enjoyed interacting with Emilie, and was delighted when she said she would join us here on this podcast because I’ve always felt that she’s got interesting things to say and interesting insights. But, I’m gonna pass right back now to Charmaine to ask our first question.

Charmaine McCaulay: Okay, Emilie, what in your personal professional history has led you to work on decolonising development? 

Emilie Tant: Firstly thank you both for inviting me to be part of this conversation. And thank you for saying you, you think I have interesting things to say. I can’t say they’ve necessarily originated in me.

But yeah, that’s a really interesting question and I think your introduction there Charmaine spoke about the lived experiences and I think the personal and professional [00:05:00] history of mine is very much intertwined and the personal has been in, in parallel or in tandem with the professional.

So I think like for most people coming into contact with university and critical ideas is probably my first sort of more serious engagement with global power dynamics I would say, in terms like Neocolonialism and Westernisation, that I was coming across in my geography studies seemed to make a lot of sense to me actually when I was reading and learning about what’s going on in the world.

And I’ve always been interested in what’s been going on in the world and actually, I suppose the difference in terms of why I suppose as a White person, as a White woman, middle class, privileged education, et cetera, that I’m doing this work or why I’ve been come into this work is I suppose my Grandpa, for example, always spoke about Palestine.

This was a, is strong theme in our dinner table discussions. [00:06:00] Interestingly my Dad identifies as Jewish and my Grandpa, my mother’s father, is a very pro Palestinian and always had strong views about what was happening there. So I think I was sort of conscious, uh, had my consciousness raised from quite a very early age about the injustices that were going on in the world.

So I think that’s one thing. And then in terms of turning that into an actual action, practice and work. I studied international relations and I had to learn another language in order to be global and I learnt Spanish, and that opened my mind to different ways of thinking, knowing, speaking, communicating, concepts that we didn’t have in English.

I think that really opened my mind another level to, to other realities. And then, out of my masters, I ended up going to the UN, in Santiago, in Chile, thinking that this was, I’d made it, this was the start of my career, I’m on the path, and it, you know, [00:07:00] and then I was in the UN, it was unpaid, and again, that structural advantage that I’ve had and that I have benefited from. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Mm-hmm. 

Emilie Tant: Allowed me to be in Santiago and doing an unpaid internship. But when I was there, I became very disillusioned, I think, because there’s a lot of bureaucracy. It’s very slow the UN, you know. It was an all white environment actually, very predominantly white.

And also, I was in the gender team and it was, you know, 10, 20 years behind the feminist movement in Chile, and that rang bells for me as well in terms of, I’m tweaking around the edges in the UN, it doesn’t seem to be getting to the crux of the issue when I go out on the streets and I’m involved in the feminist movement and they’re talking about the cis hetero, patriarchal imperialist, extractivism, system, and it’s like, wow, yeah, okay, that’s what we need to be engaging with rather than policy tweaks that aren’t really getting to the crux of the issue. [00:08:00] 

Charmaine McCaulay: Hmm. Well, thank you for that. Kate?

Kate Bird: Yeah. I’m very interested to, to hear how your personal history has informed your career choices and your passion for this subject. Yeah, that’s fascinating. 

Now, the philosopher, Olúf́mi Táíwò describes the process of elite capture, whereby white elites co-opt and disarm political movements that go against their interests by rebranding them through symbolic performances. I saw that and I just thought that’s really interesting, that is perhaps what goes on in development.

It goes on in terms of the decol agenda. It goes on in parts of the feminist movement where people will take an idea and do something with it but the way that they do something with it is actually taking the politics out of it, taking the sting out of it, taking the power out of it and just using the [00:09:00] language, and making this issue about symbolic performance. So some of the global majority suspect that shapeshifting is taking place as part of the decol agenda. 

So, it’s appropriation. There’s a process of appropriation going on where the terminology, the words of the decol agenda, are depoliticised and tamed. But that’s happening alongside decolonisation being institutionalised in certain ways in, for example, international NGOs, in Northern based think tanks, in universities and so on.

Given this challenge, what legitimacy do you think you and I have, as white women with lots of privilege, working on the decol agenda?

Emilie Tant: Yeah. This is a big question, and I think there’s sort of two elements to it. One is the sort of decol washing that we are seeing and one is the [00:10:00] sort of legitimacy as White women to do the work. And it depends what type of work you are doing, I think, as a White woman, whether you have legitimacy in it or not. In terms of how performative, is it? Or how is it backed up by real material actions? I think that’s the difference. 

So in terms of my own legitimacy, which is something I, you know, at least weekly, seriously struggle with in terms of thinking about it, who am I to talk on this issue? I’m not an expert and it’s really clear in my head that these aren’t my ideas and this isn’t my knowledge.

This is something that I’ve learned and I’m just trying to pass on. I think when you have a lot of these decol thinkers, activists, when you hear what they’re saying, they’re saying actually that White people need to take more responsibility and accountability in this work. And they can’t do it without White people because it’s also more than just privilege, it’s power. Power, economic, political, social, gendered power. It’s [00:11:00] more than just using a word and thinking of tick the box, it has to come into what actions you’re taking at work, and if it’s aligning with what the decol agenda is, which is actually a material transfer of wealth and power from minority world to the majority world, that’s what they’re asking for.

They’re asking for reparations. They’re asking for climate justice and they’re asking for racial justice. Taking it light touch is not actually doing the decol work that we are being asked to do. So I think it’s, that’s some elements to, to bear in mind around this.

And I think in terms of my own legitimacy as well. I remember very clearly, like when I have doubts, when I’m wondering if I’m the right person to do this work. I remember a friend of mine in Chile, a compañera, when I was thinking what to do with my life. I didn’t know where to go professionally or what to do.

I really wanted to be involved in the decol agenda. But she said, “Look, amiga, [00:12:00] I don’t think you can do it here. I think it’s much better if you go back to Europe and teach them over there. In terms of what educate about this knowledge over there, we don’t need, you know, we know we are telling you what to do in terms of, um, so you staying here and talking about decol doesn’t make sense.” Right?

 Yeah. I don’t know how you feel that speaks to your own thoughts on that, Kate. 

Kate Bird: Yeah. Well, it does. I mean, I question my own legitimacy working on this area. I suppose what I feel is that, I need to learn about it. I need to learn about how to implement change in the way I work. So I’m a predominantly a researcher and research manager.

I lead international research teams. I design the research, I develop the terms of reference. I develop the research instruments. I train research teams. I manage research teams. I fundraise, [00:13:00] I liaise with international donors who are funding the work. I then do the analysis, I write up the papers and disseminate them.

And each of those steps is freighted with power and privilege and the White gaze and my power and privilege in the situation where I’m a thought leader. I’m the person liaising with the funders. I’ve really reflected on what needs to change and how I can change, but how can I change if the system doesn’t change and there’s a tension there?

So I suppose what I feel is I can change the bit that I can change the bit that I have power and control over in my daily work. That’s the bit I can change and I can change myself. I can work on myself, but those are the bits that I have control over. But because the bits that I have control over are limited, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start.

I suppose that’s what I feel and I’m, in a way, I’m here doing this podcast because I want to learn. I want to learn how to show up better in my professional world. [00:14:00] I want to gather tools and I want to see if I can help to convene a conversation about the decol agenda, which will resonate with other people.

I want to convene a conversation, a multistranded conversation, which brings together thinkers, activists, practitioners. And I don’t know if I’m legitimate in working on the decol agenda, I’m doing what I’m doing. I don’t know. I’m sure I will hear from other people if they think I need to back off and back out.

Emilie Tant: I feel the same. It’s about doing what you can with what you know, and not letting, not having full perfect knowledge stop you from doing something. I think that’s important. 

Kate Bird: Yeah. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yeah. And just listening to two White women, I guess do battle over concepts.

I, I think for me sitting here, I think it’s all we well and good to talk about concept, right? But then it doesn’t touch my heart, it doesn’t touch my humanity, and I think sometimes [00:15:00] conversations, particularly among academics, can be incredibly lofty. And it sounds so good and it sounds so elevated, but then how do you bring that to the people on the ground?

And I’m not saying that the people on the ground don’t know stuff, so I’m not making the elevation only one way. I’m saying, can we make the elevation also horizontal? Right. So it would be really good if there was something like this where we would bring on also Black and Brown speakers also in the conversation, because I think as soon as you invite a Black and Brown person to the conversation, the style of the conversation will change automatically.

What gets to be prioritised will automatically change. So I think one of the issues then, if it just stays with Whites, they’ll still be within the same orientation, the same things will go around and around and again, so like what you’re saying, Emily, that when you went to.. Where did you go? Mexico?[00:16:00] 

Emilie Tant: Chile. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Chile. It was beautiful what you said, like within the confines of the UN, they’re talking one language and then when you go outside, they’re talking a completely different language. Like ‘Yeah, but I thought we’re talking the same thing’ and it’s not. So there’s something about also having this podcast is if there are other people who are from different backgrounds and also having a conversation.

I think then what gets prioritised, like I said in the power shifts, what will change and so something else will be opened up. And so along with that one, I wanted to ask you then, for you, what’s a good starting point to decolonise development research?

Emilie Tant: Ooh. Well, as I’m not a researcher, I think it’s 

Charmaine McCaulay: Ah, okay.

Emilie Tant: A bit difficult for me to have, I can say as an observer, as an outsider, and from what I’ve read about what [00:17:00] decol people are asking for. I think decolonising research, there’s many strands to research, but I think the first thing is that you are…

Oh God. I mean there’s a lot, you have to move away from the way we do research in terms of what’s counted as knowledge, or the way you’re using scientific method to, you know, certain types of scientific method that are sort of elevated as THE only way to gain knowledge. I think you’ve got to use different concepts.

For example, there’s a lot of indigenous concepts, for example, like body territory, that we’ll speak about maybe later. Or el buen vivir, which is the good life or good living, which is a whole different way of thinking about the world, you know, instead of focusing on GDP and growth and development that way, you’re thinking about how can we improve el buen vivir for everyone, which is about the social, emotional fulfillment and interconnectedness with nature as well. We [00:18:00] are really lacking with those kind of concepts that are in knowledge-based production type, it’s like an industry almost. But I’m not a researcher, so. 

Charmaine McCaulay: You mentioned one part there, and I forgot you said it was body something, body, 

Emilie Tant: Body territory.

Charmaine McCaulay: Could you just explain a little bit what that means and help me understand, that’s a new word for me too, so if you could just help me understand that, I appreciate that. 

Emilie Tant: Yeah, sure. So in Spanish it’s cuerpo territorio and where it comes from is indigenous women’s movements that see a lot of parallels in the exploitation and violence that the land goes through and their own lived experience.

So the idea of body sovereignty or body territory is trying to express this idea that the women and the land are connected. The violence, the land experiences, the women experience too, from patriarchy, from colonialism. Continue colonialism today in terms of extraction and mining and monocultures and big mega dams that [00:19:00] this colonialism and nature that indigenous women are at the front lines of defending against.

It’s often women from indigenous communities across the South American continent, for example, that are at the front lines because it’s in their territory, it’s in their land. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yes. 

Emilie Tant: And this is why decolonising is about gaining sovereignty, gaining autonomy again over the land. Not only women’s bodies, but also the land. I think that’s what that concept tries to explain. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Great. Thank you. I really like that. 

Kate Bird: Can I pitch in here because I’m very interested by the link that you just made there about women’s bodies and land. And I know that you work on gender issues and I was just wondering if you could flesh out what are the links for you between the feminist movement and thinking about gender and the decolonisation agenda?

Emilie Tant: Yeah. I think looking through the, I think the best way to see how feminist [00:20:00] sort of things and decolonial agendas intersect is through climate. I think they are both very much interconnected and I think for me as well, I came to decol thinking through feminism. So I’ve always had the feminist decol lens and I think you can’t fully decolonise if you don’t have that lens, because then we still have these rigid ideas of gender and these Western concepts that have been violently imposed across the world. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Mm-hmm. 

Emilie Tant: And destroyed other ways of being and doing gender that did exist and have always existed. So it’s about seeing how feminist theory. I know you just could said Charmaine to stop talking about theory, but it plays out in reality, right? In terms of how the patriarchal system both creates the climate crisis and creates femicide and creates death to human rights defenders. So they’re, they are totally intertwined.

And the capitalist [00:21:00] system that has been built on the labour of women. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yes. 

Emilie Tant: Um, and colonialism like it, it’s just going on today, it’s the same stuff. And you need both to do one or the other. Does that help explain a bit how they intersect? 

Kate Bird: Yeah, absolutely does. 

And we had a very interesting conversation with Eyob Balcha Gebremariam who’s a researcher and activist from Ethiopia recently. And he was thinking similarly about the, kind of the structural underpinnings of uh, coloniality and relationship with language and history.

Charmaine McCaulay: Mm-hmm. 

Kate Bird: And the erasure of majority populations, they, they lose their language, they lose their culture. The toxic losses that are tied in with the kind of supremacy, White supremacy that [00:22:00] is inherent in coloniality. So I think what you are saying about the links between feminism and climate change and decolonisation. It’s a huge agenda, it really is, it’s there in reality. That’s very interesting. Um, Charmaine, can I pass back to you for the next question? 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yes, you can. You talked about how you got interested in this work, and so my next question is kind of on the back of that. What have you done in terms of personal transformation to enable you to work on decolonisation? I think you sort of talked about that when you went to the UN. 

Emilie Tant: Well, I think that was maybe the professional light bulb moment when I realised I’m not going to make change through the UN. It’s not going to be how I deal with the structural stuff. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yeah. 

Emilie Tant: And I actually think the, sort of personal side of it was, again, in the feminist movement where I was often the only European in the room when I was with organising with local [00:23:00] women from all different parts of Santiago. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Yeah. 

Emilie Tant: And actually it was in these spaces that I had a mirror held up to me, I suppose, and saw myself in a way that I hadn’t seen myself because it was more how my whiteness came across to others.

Charmaine McCaulay: Yes. 

Emilie Tant: And I’d never been in situations where people had, you know, called me out in some ways, not in a, you know, often not in a aggressive way. More just like, did you know how colonial that sounded amiga? Like, do you just saying, do you know how that came across? And I’d feel ashamed and embarrassed and firstly taken aback because it’s obviously not whatever, you know, maybe giving a solution to something.

And they were like, well hey, why don’t you just wait a minute and see what other solutions may be around. You know, you don’t always have to have the answer. Or in the way that you talk, it’s all these sort of little things of Whiteness that you don’t see, and until you’re in spaces where people feel safe [00:24:00] enough to say, ‘Hey, Maybe you need to work on that’.

And then that also gives you the tools because once you can see yourself from their perspective, then you have the tools to start seeing it in yourself and analysing where it comes up in yourself. And so then you can start, working on that. And one of the key things is also letting go of the ego, is super important for White people, I think to be able to do decol work. Cause a lot of people feel under threat or that they’re being threatened or that their identity is at stake or they’re doing something wrong and they want to , sort of defend themselves from this accusation. But it’s not an accusation. It’s put your ego to one side and listen to what people are saying.

Okay. They’re bringing it to you for a reason. Just try and pay attention. Stop centering the self, centering you and how you feel and get over it and try and listen because these are big structural issues like you say. And it’s not just about the interpersonal, it’s about seeing that within the broader context of who has power and who doesn’t have power.

Charmaine McCaulay: Yeah, [00:25:00] and I think just to add to that, I think for many White people it is because you don’t have to look at your whiteness. It, is… willful blindness as some people will say where you can walk into a room and you are basically invisible, that you even belong to a White racialised group. It’s like that, all that stands, that gives you the power to, all the institutions, all the politics, all the police, all of that gives you permission to walk in.

And it’s not even like you’re acting as you actually get to be invisible as if what you say has no impact. There’s no weapon, there’s no weaponisation to what you say, and so it’s sometimes, I’m glad that you did it there. Because I think it’s much more difficult for Black and Brown folks who many do come from a white country to be actually even to say that because the retaliation if you do, is swift.

So I’m glad that you learnt that there. Thank you for sharing that. [00:26:00] Yeah. 

Emilie Tant: Well I think it was also because of, like, I learned a lot about different types of social relations and how to be with each other and have more empathy and love with each other, which is 

Charmaine McCaulay: Mm-hmm. 

Emilie Tant: you know, quite rare from the British cultural, way of being to go to somewhere like Chile where people are warm and there’s a lot of collective energy between how they react to each other in terms of friendship groups, right? And there’s just a lot of support that they give each other. And it was just like a whole new world to me, to see, have this love and empathy so present in, in their daily lives. And I think that was a real learning of how to be like that too.

And I mean, I had this model to learn from and it was something that we really miss in the UK and is actually, I think, part of the reason why we’re struggling so much with continued racism and these issues around not being able to talk about the impacts of colonialism. I think we are not getting in touch with our emotions about it.

Charmaine McCaulay: Absolutely. Yeah. 

Yeah. With your humanity. Thank you. Kate? 

Kate Bird: Yeah. I think what Emily’s just said is really [00:27:00] interesting because I feel when I go and work in countries in the Global South, I’ve been working in Rwanda and Cambodia. I’ve previously worked in Uganda and Zimbabwe and Kenya and India and so on.

Anyway, when I go to do my research, one of the things, that strikes me is how much I gain from being around people who are warm to each other and to be in communities that are functional

Emilie Tant: And caring. 

Charmaine McCaulay: And caring. 

Kate Bird: Yeah. Well, that’s what I mean by functional. That’s what I mean by functional. They function as a community. 

Now, I’m sure in terms of being a White woman I have gained a lot by being raised in the UK in that I’ve had choices and opportunities that I wouldn’t necessarily have experienced if I’d been born and raised in another country, as a woman. So there are benefits for me[00:28:00] in terms of the power that I have in the society here, and that’s for me where some of the connections are between decolonisation and feminism. It’s to do with the power of the individual within the structure. So, where am I in the machine? But what I wanted to say was there’s an assumption about a linearity of development and we in the West at the pinnacle of development and we’ve ‘arrived’, we’ve ‘reached it’.

And because of having ‘reached it’, that gives us some kind of gloss, some glow, some kind of, we’re five stars, we’ve got five stars and we’ve got, therefore, something to give to other countries. If only they’ll accept the gift. You know, accept this wonderful gift of development from us because we want to give it to you.

 And actually I think that concept of linearity, the linearity of development where we’ve arrived and other countries need to, you know, need to be helped to catch up. And the idea that it’s a one-way process, that development is a one-way process. We give it to you, and if you’re clever enough, you’ll accept it from us.

Whereas what I feel when I go overseas is [00:29:00] actually I’m gaining a huge amount and I’m learning a huge amount and I think our society and our culture could do with learning some of the things that very sadly, we’ve lost and forgotten in the process of modernity and, urbanisation, industrialisation, the atomisation, the creation of the nuclear family.

So we’ve had lots of things that have benefited us in terms of material wealth, but that’s on the back of something else. It’s on the back of slavery, on the back of colonialism where we’ve pulled resources out. So I think it’s a much more, two-way, much more complex situation.

Emilie Tant: Well, I think also a lot of people in majority world would reject our development and are rejecting our development and don’t want us to go to follow our path. And also it’s killing the planet for a start. So it’s not five stars, it’s zero stars, in my view. 

But the thing about [00:30:00] time and linearity. This is also something that living in South America taught me was through coming into contact with indigenous concepts and taking them seriously, allowing myself to take them seriously. You know, they may not be Western, approved knowledge, but in terms of time, we assume time is linear.

That’s not how indigenous communities understand time. They understand time as cyclical, and this is much more in tune with how nature actually functions and this idea that there’s this one direction and you should seek to reach it is not only incompatible with the planet, but it’s also doesn’t speak to reality and how life works.

It’s not just some linear journey. It’s often like this. 

Kate Bird: Yeah. Yeah. I think so.

So Emily, we’ve covered a lot of ground here, and I think where we were getting to there was this idea of ‘what you don’t want our gift of development’ [00:31:00] and really questioning what development means and the relationship between people and between countries.

So quite a kind of radical unpicking of what development means and what coloniality means in the context of these structural forces. So, there’s quite a big agenda that we’ve mapped out there, and I just wonder if you could give our listeners and viewers one practical thing that they could do, that they could change a practical action that they could contribute positively to a progressive change, uh, contribute to decolonisation. What would it be? What’s the one thing you’d give as the takeaway to our listeners and viewers? 

Emilie Tant: Well I think it’s obviously very hard to just choose one thing. So what I’ll do is give one thing to the general public and one thing, times a few, for the development sector.

But I think when we’re thinking about practical actions, I mean, we have to remember what decolonisation is asking us, which is [00:32:00] to make changes that have a material impact on dismantling these hierarchies of race, of wealth, of gender, of power. And so for example, for the general public, a lot of people don’t know, but their money is held in banks that fund the fossil fuel industry.

One of the best things you can do is take your money out of those banks and pension funds that have investments in military industries or all those sort of really core things that are continuing the system. And try and see how you can bank better in ways that aren’t fueling harm. That’s a practical thing. Speak to people and call out things when you see them. Stick your head above the parapet a bit more and raise these issues. Raise these issues with whatever space you are in.

I think in terms of the development sector, there’s a long way to go. I think there’s a big risk,[00:33:00] it’s shapeshifting, like you said, Kate, and I think it’s the same with patriarchy.

What happens is it adapts, it evolves, it changes shape. It, it does different things, but it’s still the same power really, that’s at play. So I think we really need to be thinking about, in our daily decisions, who are we contracting? Whose voices are getting commissioned to write reports? Who’s being cited? What languages are we publishing in? What languages are we hosting our events in? Who’s at the table? It’s not just skin deep, it’s actually about positionality too. So not just CEOs and directors giving their hot takes on whatever, include people who are actually confronting, like you said Charmaine, who are at the ground, who are confronting these issues in real time in their communities. 

Within internal organisations, specifically White people, I think there need to be more White people that are willing to raise their voices when they see things [00:34:00] happening that they know are not in line with this work. If they know there’s a room that’s only White people and they’re talking about Africa and there’s no Africans in the room, that’s a problem. Make sure that doesn’t happen. 

More people need to be brave. White people have a responsibility because we are less likely to receive repercussions for raising these issues. And often we will be taken more seriously or we will be engaged with in good faith more likely than people of colour or especially women of colour.

We can play in the power that we have to make deeper changes that we want to see, but we have to be willing to step up and speak up and make decisions. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Mm-hmm.

Emilie Tant: Day-to-day that in some way push this agenda just inch by inch towards where we want it to be because it’s not overnight and these structures, like we’ve said, are so deeply entrenched and they are so interconnected and they are very, very hard to uproot. But we need more people to try. Because we’re [00:35:00] running out of time, I think. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Thank you. Thank you. 

Kate Bird: Well, thank you very much Emilie. What you’ve given us there is a practical step.

Uh, because it is nice to have a practical step, to have something that you can do. So look at your banking, look where you put your money, and if it’s not ethical, on all dimensions, climate, investment in munitions and in terms of colonial practices, change who you bank with. So that’s a practical step.

And then the rest of it was challenging, particularly White people, to step up, to be brave. Step up and actually it’s not that brave because we’re less likely to face repercussions. So step up and I would challenge our listeners and viewers to think of one practical way in which they can step up in their professional lives and in their personal lives. Starting tomorrow, what can you change? Have a think about it. 

So, I would like to thank Emilie once again for joining us here [00:36:00] today, and to say goodbye to Emilie. 

Charmaine McCaulay: Bye, Emilie. 

Emilie Tant: Thanks. 

Kate Bird: And also to thank Charmaine as my co-host and that’s it for this episode. Thank you very much.

Charmaine McCaulay: Thank you.

This weeks guest:

Emilie Tant (pronouns she/they) contributes to elevating research on gender norms and how intersectional social movements drive deeper social change.

They have now returned to the UK following nearly three years in Chile, where Emilie was active in the feminist movement and became engaged with the decolonial agenda. Emilie speaks Spanish, holds a Masters in International Relations, and has published on a number of media platforms, including the New Internationalist, the Guardian and gal-dem.

Recommended links/reading

  • Kehinde Andrews – The New Age of Empire
  • Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí – The Invention of Women
  • Steve Biko – I write what I like
  • Emma Dabiri – What White People Can Do Next
  • Walter Rodney – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
  • Chandra Mohanty – Under Western Eyes
  • Tuck and Yang – Decolonisation is not a Metaphor 

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