What you need to know:
Ignoring men while pushing for equality within the same institutions they head is doomed to fail.
Let’s embrace a shift in gendered roles, so men and women have no distinction in the part they have to play within the family unit.
While “fighting patriarchy” and “inclusion” have been used in the same sentence to promote gender equality, men have been uncomfortable corner-sitting members of the sex-equality-attainment committee.
Not once or twice have we seen prominent female leaders lash out at men trying to bring in the male voice into women’s issues.
Anytime men talk about rape, harmful traditional practices, and gender-based violence (GBV), among other women issues, female backlash spews like a volcano.
Phrases like “we cannot include perpetrators in women spaces”, “you must give women space to deal with their issues,” and “we only fund women-led organisations” often pop up to exclude men from these spaces.
But there has been a definition problem… that feminism is a hardline movement of women seeking to overthrow men and take over.
Feminism is not a battle of the sexes.
It is neither a competition between women and men, nor a movement to crush men and place women above them.It is about equal rights for all sexes.
It is not just women though; men too, harbour hardline stands to protect their patriarchal powers.
In 2021, some local media personalities were fired for making insensitive remarks against a GBV victim … surprisingly, men actually justified their actions.
These got me thinking: Do men have a role to play or women should fight their own battles to attain equity? If there is one, how far can they go to own the space, considering men’s traditional dominance?
Secondly, why are men not speaking up for women when their rights are infringed on but justify men’s violations instead?
It is true men are the major perpetrators of GBV, and in our patriarchal societies, their voices are listened to more.
However, history shows that men can lead in the promotion of proper treatment of women. An example is former Burkina Faso’s president, Thomas Sankara.
Also read: Caught between feminism and tradition
In his four-year tenure in presidency, he once famously said, “Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence.”
His stand spurred not only an unprecedented social reform, but also an economic boom. He was radical and firm! He appointed women to key positions and recruited them for military service, banned female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages, and polygamy.
He was assassinated in office, and because his voice was silenced, Burkina Faso still battles with the issues he banned.
The main barrier to the feminist movement is showing men why equality matters to them. Kenya has made strides to ensure gender balance in positions of power.
The 2010 Constitution imposes the two-thirds gender rule, effectively leading to an increase of women in prominent political positions… but we still struggle to make the changes effective as offices like those of the woman rep are underfunded.
Men are still the majority in most spheres of leadership… and must be engaged as allies. Men as fathers, brothers, husbands, religious leaders and politicians, among other roles hold positions of power in their families and the institutions they represent.
Ignoring them while pushing for equality within the same institutions is deemed to fail. Let’s embrace a shift in gendered roles, so men and women have no distinction in the part they have to play within the family unit.
Both men and women have to make a consistent effort to meet each other halfway. Women must be ready to take up patriarchal responsibilities as men take up women’s.
The writer is an award-winning multimedia journalist and Director of Communications for the Global Media Campaign; [email protected]