“…the gender equality revolution is also a revolution for men. I appeal to all men to step up to women’s sides and make their voices heard” – Michael Kaufman (Author and a gender activist).
The fight against gender inequality does not only lie in the hands of women. Although the gender equality agenda has been led by women’s movement for decades, it is not a one-sided task. The engagement of men and boys- the other half of humanity –as a game changer goes a long way to end discrimination against women and achieve gender equality.
Much progress will not be made towards gender equality without men’s support. Not because women are weak and cannot do it on their own. Not because men have been left out and are now victims but because men are part of the problem.
One may ask, what then is gender equality? UNICEF defines gender equality as the “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resource, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or men and women, be the same, or that they are treated exactly alike”. The International Labour Organization defines gender equality as “enjoyment of equal rights, opportunities and treatment by men and women and by boys and girls in all spheres of life”.
This means sharing equally in the distribution of power and influence, and having equal opportunities for financial independence, education and realizing their personal ambitions. It also implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both men and women are taken into consideration.
Gender equality demands the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but the necessary foundation to achieve a peaceful, thriving and sustainable world. Fighting together for equality and justice is the only way to build an equal society.
Despite many efforts been made by many international organizations to ensure that men and women are presented with equal opportunities, women still don’t have an equal world now. Women and girls are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate.
Women have less access to property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely to be victims of domestic abuse and other forms of violence.
Gender inequalities are still deep-rooted in every society. Although they are experienced differently across different cultures, women all over the world suffer from lack of access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps.
In many situations, they are denied access to basic education and health care and are victims of violence and discrimination.
They are under-represented in political and economic decision- making processes. However, in spite of decades of social protest, policy initiatives, educational reform, nongovernmental organization activity, national and international legislation-gender equality still persists.
Among the key root causes of unequal outcomes for men and women are social institutions-norms, laws and practices which discriminate against women and girls. Some other reasons usually offered to explain the persistence of gender inequality include large abstractions: patriarchy, capitalism, male self-interest, misogyny and religion.
What progress has been made towards gender equality?
Today, there are hosts of organizations fighting for gender equality. First is the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), an agency dedicated to gender equality. Other organizations include Womankind Worldwide, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Plan International, Women for Women International, Equity Now and just to name a few.
Why men’s participation matter.
Men are not isolated individuals. As the poet Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of itself” Men and boys live in social relationships, many with women and girls: wives, partners, mothers, aunts, daughters, nieces, friends, classmates, workmates, professional colleagues, neighbours, and so on. The quality of everyman’s life depends to a large extent on the quality of those relationships.
Living in a system of gender inequality limits or damages the lives of the women and girls concerned, and inevitably degrades the lives of the men and boys too. For instance, very large numbers of men are fathers, and about half of their children are girls.
Some men are sole parents, and are then deeply involved in caregiving-an important demonstration of men’s capacity for care.
Many men make sacrifices for their children, and desire a more active fatherhood. To make sure that daughters grow up in a world that offers young women security, freedom and opportunities to fulfill their talents, is a powerful reason for many men to support gender equality.
Moreover, men are needed to challenge gender stereotypes, to share equitably in family and household responsibilities, and to be positive role models in their communities and families. In situations of mass poverty and under-employment, for instance in developing countries, flexibility in gender division of labour may be crucial to a household which requires women’s earnings as well as men’s.
In village communities, maximizing the total labour resources may be vital to prosperity or even survival. Men would tend to benefit in the long run from the collective well-being that flows from the better education of women, from improvement in women’s wealth etc.
For example, distribution of care and domestic tasks in the home encourages more satisfying and happy relationships. In the labour force, greater equality leads to better levels of production and satisfaction.
Additionally, men joining the gender equality revolution will help reduce or prevent various forms of violence against women. Most often violence is strongly associated with dominating patterns of masculinity. Gender inequalities increase the risk of violence by men against women and inhibit the ability of those affected to seek protection.
Movement towards gender equality makes it more possible for men to adopt “feminine” styles of nonviolent approaches in dealing with women. Although, gender-based violence affects women and men of all ages and background, women and girls are often the primary victims.
As an example, women and girls may be more often exposed to rape and other forms of sexual violence. An understanding of gender equality by men and their subsequent recruitment in the fight against gender inequality will help them understand the reasons why they are not supposed to rape the girl child, marry the girl child at young age or abuse their wives at home.
Although raising awareness of male privilege and acknowledging that girls and women face discrimination shows progress, this alone will not stop the perpetuation of those forms of oppression. It
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I would entreat men to stand with women and girls in their daily struggles for the eradication of patriarchal, sexist, and misogynist constructs so they may have access to equal freedom, equal respect, and equal power.
Happy International Women’s Day to all women across the world! We recognize and applaud your effort. Ayekoo!!!
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