Wendy Nyakurerwa Her Point of View —
I laughed my heart out last week when Her Zimbabwe tweeted that during a discussion on gender based violence, Mr Gilbert Mabasa, the Bulawayo Polytechnic college principal, gave women a free lesson — that when they say men are like dogs, they are insulting dogs.
Goodness me, that coming from a man must have really injured a few male egos. Was he insinuating that dogs are better than men?
I hope not. I sincerely hope he was misquoted. I am definitely not going to be the judge there, for my good Lord forbids that.
In this merry mood, l will simply have another good laugh. But see, what captured my eye here — or rather my skewed humour — was not the blunt message, it was the gesture.
Here was a man who seemed to have dangerously occupied the women’s corner to protect them from his own. Before l get into the crux of his stance, a little detour will do.
Fighting for gender equality has too often become synonymous with men-hating but it doesn’t have to be like that. Such deportment takes away the nobleness of the otherwise gracious drive.
It widens the gender equality gap instead of closing it. Women’s rights activists need to know where to draw the line. Rather, the fight must be about men and women having access to equal rights and opportunities, not turning them against each other.
Therefore Mr Mabasa’s utterances went deeper than what met the ear; they symbolize something so important in the fight for gender equality.
Something so close to us, considering that men and women share the same space; but something still far off, a pipe dream. We cannot dare to dream of gender equality when only half of the world’s population feels comfortable to participate in the conversation.
We cannot talk of ending violence against women or child marriages without engaging the men. The campaign has to incorporate both sexes.
Through the HeForShe UN initiative that has been embraced by Zimbabwe, we have the perfect tool to promote gender equality.
In this drive, we give the men a plausible voice in the conversation about gender equality since the scourge affects everyone socially, economically and politically.
It doesn’t have to be a struggle for women by women. The goal is to engage men and boys as agents of change by encouraging them to take action against gender inequality.
What l hope to come across one of these days is a campaign promoting women’s rights with no woman in sight. Imagine having my male colleague writing this column, a male minister at the helm of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, and a man heading Musasa Project and other such projects.
That will be real progress. As long as we still have women leading the gender equality movement, we can continue dreaming of real parity.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro, a special advisor for the UN, tells a story of a Zimbabwean man who after hearing of the HeforShe campaign opened a husband’s school and went around recruiting every man who was in the habit of beating up his wife.
After schooling them on the downsides of gender based violence, the men have graduated to become good husbands and are now advocates of the same.
No woman in sight, and yet there is tremendous progress. Not that women are being sidelined, far from it, but they should not lead the conversation alone. This will determine the success or failure of the initiative.
And if truth was to be told, not all men are enjoying the benefits of gender equality anyway. Even though we do not often talk about men as prisoners of gender stereotypes and inequalities, there is evidence that they are.
They are being bashed, they are being sexually abused, they are being financially abused; and yet their egos are just too big for them to admit it.
We can even launch a SheforHe campaign to rescue our dear brothers from the jaws of gender based violence, that is if they can agree to come join the HeforShe party.
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