Males Engagement in Creating a Gender Equal World!

Why Boys and Men Engagement is Important in Achieving a Gender Equal World.

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By: Jennifer Kayombo (SRHR and Gender Activist from Tanzania)

For our dream of having an egalitarian society to become a reality, boys and men engagement remains critical and at the center of the realization. A more sustainable social, political and economic progress will only be attained if everyone - male or female will be involved. We need to take everyone on board because there is a role for each one of us and dismantling patriarchy needs our consolidated efforts. Some of the conducts in a male-dominated society have made some of female counterparts becoming even more patriarchal than male themselves.

Whilst that happens; girls and women remain at greater disadvantages as revealed by the report of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) titled as ‘The State of World Population – 2020.’ The report state that there are estimated 33,000 cases of Child Marriage which happens every day across the world and 200 million women and girls alive today are affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
If nearly have of the population keeps on being deprived their rights then we are too far from our dream.

The quest of attaining an equal world in terms of gender requires for elimination of all harmful practices against women and girls, like Child and Early Forced Marriages (CEFM), FGM, Teenage pregnancies and sexual violence. Such elimination will empower them to realize their full potential and make a better world. To eliminate all these vices; male engagement is critical due of the following reasons: -

Men and boys are not only influencers in sexual relations but also they are trends and norms setters. In most cases, they drive social and economic agenda for girls. For example; adolescent girls are faced with early and unwanted pregnancies whose perpetrators are their male peers. Suppose boys and young men knew about contraceptives methods alongside their female partners, the risk would have been mitigated. However, this is not happening as boys and men have been left out and girls and women have been given all the attentions.

Due to unequal power relations; in many societies men are economic drivers. They have greater access to economic opportunities including income generating activities. This makes girls and women economically and socially dependent whose consequence is next to none ability to participate in decision-making processes. This could be changed if the adverse impact of the situation will be revealed from time to time among male showing how the situation is at male’s disadvantages too.

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Dr. Katanta Simwanza – a Tanzanian gender and women rights champion speaking with students during the 2019 Menstrual Hygiene Day commemoration in Dodoma (© Tanzania Menstrual Hygiene Coalition)

Unequal power relations reinforce gender inequalities through society norms, values and beliefs. As a result of the phenomena, boys and men have been given a lot of power and privileges to influence. As said by Lord Acton ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ – the power bestowed upon boys and men have made them making irrational decisions which sometimes are attributed to ignorance. The kind of irrational decisions include women beating, women inheritance, sexual abuse and harassment to girls and women. If boys and men would be engaged, then we would be kissing goodbye to these inequalities.

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Boys who visited the AFRIYAN booth during the Tanzanians in Twitter (TOT) Bonanza © (AfriYAN Tanzania)

My years as an SRHR champion; I have been exposed to perspectives of most adolescent boys and young men on issues of SRHR. Most view SRHR as a female matter due to the fact that most of the interventions have less to do with involving and helping adolescent boys and young men in identifying their roles, as gate keepers to improve the quality of female lives. This has made adolescent boys and young men lack right information and skills to support their female counterparts to make the right choices and protect them from violence.

In many societies, we have seen there are some contradictions between religious leaders and gender advocates. Some religious teachings emphasize on cooperation, respect, obedience among girls and women to boys and men. The effect of this is prioritization of male in different leadership and decision-making processes. Girls and women violation is evident of this scenario. Cases of forced marriages, FGM and school dropouts among adolescent girls have been normalized because of this. We should not forget the number of male religious leaders. Therefore the need to engage them is so obvious.

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Dr. Katanta Simwanza speaking to pupils and students of different school in Dodoma during the 2019 Menstrual Hygiene Day commemorations. (© Tanzania Menstrual Hygiene Management Coalition)

Most leaders at national, regional and international level are Men who are also parents and guardians. To achieve our goal of a gender-equal word; we need to ensure that men become supportive in promoting and respecting girls and women rights. They need to
be allies through designing and implementing gender transformative programs.
A better world we envision could only be achieved if both male and female work together. Let the changes begin in our home and communities by raising a boy child to believe girls too have equal rights like them. That girls can equally access resource and opportunities to unleash their potential as them. And that he can promote, respect and protect #ChildRights #YouthRights without hesitation or discrimination to #GirlsRight.

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Teachers and students collaborating in brainstorming session during the Menstrual Hygiene Management Training coordinated by Femina Hip (© Femina Hip)

We all need to believe that, a better world is for everyone and we both have roles making it – be a change agent and be a gender equality advocate.

My Sincerely Appreciation for our very own #He4She in Tanzania, Dr Kantanta Simwanza (Senior Program Technical Advisor-Gender & Social Inclusion in Engender Health Organization ) for his constructive inputs.

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