The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

We need to remain united in our fight for human rights – Dr Marceline Naudi

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 15 May 2019, 08:34 Last update: about 4 months ago

I caught up with Dr Marceline Naudi, Head of the Department of Gender Studies within the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, a feminist and public intellectual of repute.  I asked her what are her research interests, replying by stating that, “It starts with women and gender, but more specifically, violence against women, gender-based violence, femicide and of course LGBTIQ.”  

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She continues to say that, “and of course, all the ‘isms” or the various grounds of discrimination hoping that my research contributes towards human rights being respected for all.’ 

Dr Naudi received her first degree from the University of Malta (1980), her Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Bradford (U.K.) (1990) and her Doctorate from Manchester University (2004).   She is a social worker by profession and her practice (in England, Ireland and Malta) included work with children and young people in care and their families, ex-offenders, homeless people, persons with mental health support needs and survivors of domestic violence.

I asked Dr Naudi how she would define social wellbeing.  She says, “There are many ways to define social wellbeing.  In relation to my specific areas of interest, it’s about respect, about being respected for being who you are, feeling that respect, being able to respect oneself because you reflect what society sees in you, and therefore being able to respect others.”

According to Dr Naudi there is always place for ‘doing good’!  In her view, “As our society stands, some people have greater access to services which are considered of value, like good health, good education, good employment, general wellbeing.  Those of us who have greater access must surely also have a responsibility to narrow the gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots’ – don’t you think?”

Dr Naudi has always worked very hard both as an academic and as a practitioner with minorities.

I tried to explore with her why people resort to discriminating against minorities.  She says that, “Discrimination is often based on prejudices which we may have acquired as we grow up in a society that is not always equal.  It is also based on a lack of knowledge and sometimes fear.”

It was Marie Curie who had said, ‘Nothing is to be feared, it is only to be understood’.  We need to learn to be open to ‘other’, that which is different to us.  Change is always difficult, and we often prefer to stay in ‘stasis’, rather than challenge norms that are discriminatory, whether in their intent or effect.’ 

She continues to say that the variables that would make society more inclusive are, ‘We need to continue to raise awareness about the effects of discrimination – as I often tell my students, most people are not ‘horrible, mean and nasty’ – most people do not discriminate against others with malicious intent to cause harm – most people are discriminatory in their actions because that is what they have absorbed from society around them as they grew up. So these actions, these prejudices that inform the actions, need to be challenged.’

In her view the challenges being faced in society are centred around the right wing ideology that seems to be raising its head in many European countries.  She says that LGBTIQ rights are being used to discredit gender generally.  In her view, ‘it’s a divide and rule tactic.’  She continues to say that, ‘I personally believe that we need to remain united in our fight for human rights for all.   We can agree to differ on specifics, but overall remain united.’

I explored with Dr Naudi why the need to study gender and LGBTIQ and her answer is curt and terse; ‘Look around you! Our whole society is gendered! Everything we do relates to gender and heteronormativity.  By studying these areas we become more aware of these things – again, as I often tell my students, we need to ‘open our eyes’, to be able to ‘see’ all the ways in which our gendered and heteronormative norms have insidiously permeated every aspect of our lives. And of course, it’s not only about seeing/identifying, but also about creating change, encouraging a more equal and just society that does not strive to place us all in pigeon holes.’ 

I ask her if as academics they are managing to use research and policy to influence tangible changes in society.  “Unfortunately, we often rely on EU funded ‘projects’ to carry out research.  This means that we often have to ‘fit’ the research to the project criteria.  Also, since EU projects have a brief shelf life (often 2 years), by the time the research is carried out it’s too late for it to inform the other parts of the project, like training, and changes in policies.  We also need to use the media to make sure we get the message across to policy makers and politicians.”

One very important commitment of Dr Naudi is that of leading the European Femicide Observatory hosted within the University of Malta.  When I asked her about it she says that, “The European Observatory on Femicide came out of an EU Cost Action on Femicide Across Europe, of which I was part.  As a European Observatory we aim to collect data (quantitative and qualitative) on killings of women because they are women, across Europe.  We have set up various country groups, with specified focus points, and we are working on two thematic groups which will collate the data collected by the country groups. 

“The aim is to bring home to ‘the powers that be’ that this is just not acceptable – we can’t just speak nice words and allow women to continue to be killed! The EU, the Council of Europe, the individual countries, all need to walk the walk – talking the talk is no longer sufficient.”

·                     In academic year 2019/20 we will be offering a Diploma course on ‘Gender, Work and Society’ in collaboration with the Centre for Labour Studies.  This course tends to act as a way in to academia for returners, people (mainly women), who have left any form of formal education some time way back.  It eases them back in. Each cohort includes people who then choose to study for a B.A., eventually even a Masters, and some make it to a PhD.

·                     In academic year 2020/21 we will be opening our two Masters’ programmes, a ‘Master of Gender Studies’, which is mainly by research, and a ‘Master in Gender Society and Culture’, which is mainly taught in format.

·                     You can also apply for an MPhil/PhD.

 

Contact:  [email protected]

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