Gender parity should be the aim of every man in new year

Gender equality symbol. To challenge outdated beliefs, it is crucial to educate men about the importance of gender equality.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Equality makes our communities safer and more conducive to individual and collective growth.
  • It also lessens the burden on our healthcare, security and judicial systems, usually brought about by gender-based violence.

Cases abound of men facing a backlash for their gender equality efforts. Despite the glaring historical injustices that inform the need to focus attention on the empowerment of women and girls, trivialisation of the gender agenda persists. Critics trash it. At best, they say it has nothing to do with men and should be a women’s only affair.

Often in group discussions, those saying otherwise find themselves as lone voices – islands in a sea of deeply entrenched patriarchal mindsets.

For me, being part of the gender desk at Nation Media Group has come with many lessons. It has offered an opportunity to interact with literature on – and stories about – the plight of women and girls on a frequent basis, thus providing more of an insider view of the sad realities that have existed unabated in our midst.

Celebrated American civil rights leader Martin Luther King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Anywhere can be replaced with any gender and the famous quote will still have pride of place. And so, protection of women’s rights must be the goal of every man who yearns to see a better society.

Many members of our society will, of course, remain prone to using assumptions and associations to interpret gender roles, thereby taking counter-stands in the quest for equality, unaware of the intricate effects of age-old practices that continue to dictate gender norms and destroy our social fabric.

From my experience of interacting with gender stories, awareness boosts understanding of how power, privilege and opportunities create a gender imbalance, whose outcome is the disproportionate number of women and girls lagging behind in education, business, sports, careers and economic development. The ensuing vicious cycle hurts progress towards equality in all its forms and freedom from discrimination.

Media stories serve to highlight persistent social, political and material disadvantages that women and girls face. They provide the basis for conversations about rights and power, and the overarching need for change.

Gender affects human conditions, options and experiences as political, cultural, economic, legal and kinship systems within which we operate are deeply gendered. Thus, insightful knowledge of gender biases, dynamics and patterns can ease the journey to equality. This brings to the fore the need for intensified awareness drives that co-opt men as key allies in the campaigns.

As a collective resolution for 2024, gender equality should be an end goal for everyone, and deliberate efforts should be made to place men at the heart of it as they have benefitted more from the gender power gap and have been the main perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence, a major human rights violation.

We have to interrogate ourselves and ask whether we would want our sisters, aunts, nieces, mothers, cousins, or friends not to avail themselves of certain opportunities on the mere basis of their gender.

We don’t expect an overnight change of mindsets. But with sustained efforts, we can achieve this goal. Already, we’ve been having stories about men, especially elders from patriarchal communities, embracing gender equality by heeding calls against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and objectification of women. This is quite re-energising, notwithstanding the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead. We must never be afraid to stand up for what is right, whatever the circumstances.

Equality benefits everyone and provides a platform that fast-tracks economic development. It further makes our communities safer and more conducive to individual and collective growth. Equality also lessens the burden on our healthcare, security and judicial systems, usually brought about by gender-based violence.

Commit to a gender-equal 2024.