Wednesday, August 3, 2016

enfoque diferencial: differentiated approach

enfoque diferencial: differentiated approach

This term is sometimes mistranslated with the odd false cognate of differential, and sometimes even as differential focus, which completely misses the mark. The term is widely used in Colombia but has been particularly in the news of late because the peace negotiators finally added gender to the agreements, and spelled out ways that the war had affected women differently and thus how the peace transition also should.

Treating men and women 'the same' is not actually equality - rather it serves as a way to reinforce structures of inequality. So too with other oppressed groups, and the term enfoque diferencial in Colombia is widely used to refer to a differentiating the delivery of programs and policies not just by gender but also race, ability, class, urban or rural status, etc. (though all too often just one of these at a time). Far too often this is just a 'saludo a la bandera', but these latest agreements are very specific and I feel somewhat hopeful about them.

Ironically though, in adding an approach that is differentiated by gender, they really don't differentiate among women, in even the most basic intersectional way. As Ginny Bouvier argues in her review of the accords (unfortunately falling again into the use of the confusing false cognate):

"there was little reference in the summaries of the eight areas highlighted to the differential needs, experiences, and capacities of women and LGBTI individuals.  Ethnic and territorial rights, which are fundamental rights for indigenous and Afro-descent populations, are not mentioned in these summaries.  There is no reference to special protections (or reparations, which presumably have not yet been fully defined) for widows young girls, or single heads of households.  Ethnicity, age, class, and marital status, among other things, matter in how a person experiences war and peace. Ideally, these will be addressed in future reviews of the accords.

It was also a bit off-putting that in discussing the gender changes to the agreements reached to date, the chief negotiator basically said that if these peace accords stick it will be because women make them work on the ground. It seems like a lot to ask of those who were least involved in the armed fight, but maybe he's right.

A final note on terminology: In the Canadian context rather than the term gender differentiated approach I hear more often that a program or research project is "gender sensitive". I don't love that term though, it seems like a bureaucratic obfuscation.


Sara Koopman said...

over on facebook my colleague Kath Nygard commented:
Sara, I think that both differential and differentiated are correct translations. According to oxford differential means: Of, showing, or depending on a difference; varying according to circumstances or relevant factors: the differential achievements of boys and girls
Constituting a specific difference; distinctive. What do you think?

and I replied:
yes, but google differential approach and you'll see that they are almost all either translations or referring to something completely different. I just don't think it is how we would normally say the full term in untranslated English and I think differentiated is much more naturally and easily understood by non-Spanish speakers. Differential is also at an oddly high register in English.

Sara Koopman said...

after chewing on this for months I came around - see my new post on this at