This fall Mahnaz Afkhami curated On Generations for the International Museum of Women’s Curating Change exhibit. This exhibit features the voices of women leaders, filmmakers, and activists who curate their favorite stories from IMOW’s rich global archives.
Writing stories with my granddaughter opened me to her world of endless possibility. My childhood world was one of small wonders and many limits; hers is open-ended. We spend a lot of time opening windows into each of our worlds for one another. We share a desire for change and the willingness to do what it takes.
An exciting part of my work at Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) is daily contact with women and girls in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Around the world, women are facing and overcoming challenges that are part of transitions. Making change happen involves transition—from exclusion to inclusion, from inequality to equality, from gendered spaces to openness, from hierarchical to participatory leadership, and from tradition to adaptation.
All of these have to do with passing the torch from grandmothers to mothers to daughters. We grandmothers that have lived lives that were slower, quieter, less connected, and much more dependent on face-to-face contact have to look at the world through the eyes of our daughters and granddaughters. For the next generation, friends can be men and women you have never actually seen but who are in constant contact, who live in all corners of the world, to whom knowledge comes not only from schools and books but from seeing, hearing, and accessing the world’s libraries and visual treasuries online.
In many places where WLP works, the majority of the population is below the age of thirty. Transitions happen almost automatically. The granddaughters teach us how to reach out to their world. Older generations offer the depth of experience that comes from a more leisurely relationship with time and space. In the industrialized world, several generations are in the work force simultaneously. The excitement comes from seeing the differences and the similarities of inter-generational exchanges and the tensions, excitement, and humor that is involved in this reciprocity between generations. This is how change happens and how transitions come about. It has been an exciting experience choosing the words, images and sounds that are aspects of the rich tapestry of generations in the family, workplace, leisure, activism and individual self-reflection.