Globally, there is a rising consensus steadily evolving among community leaders, the educated, and policymakers that ending gender-based violence and discrimination requires the full involvement of communities — and in particular, the increased participation of men and boys.
This is because men and boys worldwide continue to maintain an unfair high lead compared to women in all areas – in August Houses and in stadiums; in homes, the classroom and the places of work. This is worsened by the still common practice of men making decisions for women regarding their welfare and dictating how they should live their lives.
All this is led by the unchecked cultural practices which stem way back before the birth of global equality, gender and women’s rights movements such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These organizations have played a significant role in advocating for gender equality even when gender equity remains not yet achieved.
It’s this centralization of power on men together with primitive cultural practices, which make gender inequality a thorn in the foot of the global quest for a fair and balanced community.
However, this chest thumping of men puts them at a very big disadvantage which is silent but dangerous. Giving confidence to a man to have more than one partner puts him at a very high risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Making a man marry a teenage girl just makes mutual love and affection impossible as the girl is not psychologically ready for intercourse.
We have to change this perception. We must make men agents of change in their own lives and in the lives of women. We must organize men to advocate for the change of the unfair cultural norms starting with their hearts and minds.
The Outcome Document for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2030 Agenda, stresses the importance of achieving gender equality and specifically calls on governments to eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls. Within that context, there is a critical need to recognize the role of men and boy.
All this must be done through sharing of information and resources after educating men and boys, bolting the speed of awareness of gender based violence and nurturing their ability to cultivate nonviolence.
At Reach a Hand, Uganda (RAHU), we recognize this through use of male role models (cultural icons). We use these icons to talk to men and boys about their roles and responsibilities in contributing to a fair and just community.
Furthermore, we have just concluded carrying out community dialogues about ending child marriage in different parts of the country where we involved men and boys who expressed open willingness to join the advocacy shown through their experiences.
We have involved male peer educators in the different school outreaches to speak to fellow young boys about the same issues. Here, the boys get to understand the dangers of a society where girls are at a disadvantage and how they can contribute to the positive contribution of the development of the girl child.
Consequently, we have to recognize the now clear trend beyond the laws which state that boys and girls, men and women are equal, and move to a new movement of the actual recognition of gender equality. By this, men must act and be part of the solution.
It is critical to involve men and boys in efforts to better women’s health, economic and social status. Society must acknowledge how some men’s behavior and attitudes limit women’s lives. But it’s also critical to address underlying traditional expectations and structures that lead to their actions – as well as help men understand how they can benefit from changing their behavior. Ultimately, to achieve more equitable relationships, we have to question men’s and women’s beliefs about their roles in society.
Featured Image: A community leader in one of the districts giving his views on child marriage. Reach A Hand, Uganda