Despite progress on some fronts, women still endure various forms of discrimination, harassment, violence, marginalisation and exclusion across the globe. These include femicide, genital mutilation, child marriages, trafficking, domestic abuse and sexual assault, or young girls not permitted to drive, wear pants or progress beyond a particular glass ceiling in their chosen profession. Mmegi Correspondent, KELETSO THOBEGA observes that men are, however, getting onto the bandwagon of gender equality and empowerment
While gender issues and women empowerment are often considered to be female-only terrain, more men are coming out to publicly support women’s efforts for equality and opportunities. Post-millennium, it appears many organisations and individuals now understand the need for men to participate in the women’s movement and help end almost 2,000 years of men’s patriarchy.
In progressive and first world countries, feminism is becoming the intellectual framework that both men and women use to analyse political, economic, and social issues because the empowerment of women is crucial to solving a lot of seemingly unrelated problems that are as important to men as they are to women without creating reverse discrimination.
Why feminism is not a swear word
In some cases, the semantics of ‘feminism’ tend to polarise people, although its definition is simple, being equality between men and women. However, its ‘vernacular’ (sic) misunderstood context of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ is preposterous to building a future in which women are equal without the assistance of half of the world’s population.
Considering the stagnancy surrounding issues of gender equality and women empowerment, discussions about women’s empowerment could not be more relevant.
One of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. In March this year, the United Nations’, leaders from government, civil society and business sector, convened to discuss how businesses could be forced to change in advancing gender equality globally.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women, are premised on the fact that women’s full participation in economic life is essential to building strong economies and establishing more stable and just nations. The Principles call on businesses to among other things:
Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality, respect and support human rights and non-discrimination (i.e, treat all women and men fairly at work), promote education, training and professional development for women.
Also implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women, promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy, measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.
But what is the role of men
in women empowerment?
Human beings comprise men and women, who co-exist and are co-dependent. Inequality comes from the stereotyping of roles, duties and professions based on gender. And for women to wrench back the ‘lost power’ and empower themselves, they need a lot of support and understanding from men. Since most men are at the helm as leaders in business, policy and lawmaking, it is vitally important for these male leaders to be engaged on gender equality and spearhead transformative change.
Drawing the line between
empowerment and misandry
The biggest fear (and perhaps myth) is that empowering women will enslave men. Empowerment by definition is described as giving equal gender rights, not eroding one person’s rights, in order to empower the other. Misandry on the other hand, is the hate and disempowerment of men, which has no link to feminism and gender equality.
Gender activists agree that equality is necessary not only for the growth of women as individuals but also the long-term development of humanity, considering that the crimes, discrimination and other gaping challenges need collective effort to solve.
Closer to home, different organisations like Men and Boys for Gender Equality have lent their voice to women empowerment in creating a gender-neutral society. The business sector also continues to make strides to accord women opportunities for their economic growth and ensure they take on leadership positions in corporate environments.
In politics, it appears progress is slow, but there seems to be some effort. The Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth League (BMDYL) in June forwarded a motion to its central committee seeking that the party have 50 percent representation of women in all their party committees.
BMDYL president Phenyo Segokgo said this call was motivated by the fact that they value women’s contribution in the party. Segokgo said they need women’s voices in all committees and issues of policymaking. Although he noted that even if the party did not agree on the proposed representation, the percentage should be binding.