The Sunday Mail
FEMINIST, journalist and social activist Gloria Marie Steinem once said: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons . . . . but very few have had the courage to raise their sons more like daughters.”
This idea, if adopted, could have inspired a paradigm shift in Zimbabwe’s fight for gender equality and equity as such past campaigns have targeted capacitating women to fight for their rights and encouraging them to conquer previously male domains.
As Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world on November 25 to commemorate the 16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, there was a clear show that men are increasingly getting involved in the cause.
Organisations like Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender, formed after the Beijing Declaration of 1995 which called for women to advocate for their rights, has been in these trenches for quite a while now.
Padare says it is seized with “moulding the new man”.
“The Beijing Declaration earned a backlash from the patriarchal society, yet there was nothing outrageous in its provisions. Women needed more control in regards to their reproductive rights, education and leadership positions, among others. These women are our mothers, sisters and daughters, so as men, why deny them?” says Kelvin Hazangwi of Padare.
Padare knows the DNA of the “new man”.
“The new man takes responsibility. He does not rape girls and women. He does not perpetrate violence against women and girls, he solves problems through dialogue, not violence,” said Hazangwi.
“The new man has positive health-seeking behaviour. This man exudes positive masculinity; he keeps his ego in check. Women do not fear being with him, he creates safe spaces for the women around him. It’s disheartening to discover that the majority of rape cases are being perpetrated by uncles, cousins and fathers,” he explains.
“The new man does not say words that derogate women. The man of old does not listen to women, he treats them as minors. He objectifies women as sex objects. This man knows more about the need to take his cattle to the dip-tank than that his wife has to go for breast cancer screening.”
Hazangwi says the “new man” is a bona fide African.
“It’s not Western to be a loving, caring man. Men sit to decide menstrual issues yet they don’t menstruate. Let’s go to a period of partnership. Families go into poverty because the wife who is skilled is forbidden from going to work. The burden of providing should not only fall on the man,” says Hazangwi.
But it is not possible to create a new man without helping the man of old.
“Provide psycho-social support for the man. Yes, there are safe houses for women who are survivors of violence, but the man who is the perpetrator needs help. With a toll-free line, one can get advice and walk away from violence,” he says.
Great Zimbabwe University Vice- Chancellor Professor Rungano J. Zvobgo concurs that there is nothing African about gender-based violence, and that men and women are equals.
“Our women are not feminists in the European way, they are not radical feminists. They are not at war with their male counterparts. Women were in close participation in the liberation struggle alongside men, which led to independence,” he says.
GZU is the first university in Zimbabwe to offer Gender Studies at undergraduate level.
“We are setting up a fine school of Gender and Culture Studies and the first intake will be next year. The reason for setting up the school is that we want to interrogate those issues that are really germane to the female struggle for self-discovery and emancipation. Men, who are equal partners in gender issues, will also learn about these issues,” he says.
Prof Zvobgo is a firm believer that the gender equality struggle is located within culture.
“We include culture in Gender Studies because in African culture relations between men and women are deeply entrenched in the way we live: our customs, beliefs and our values. The struggle for female emancipation must be understood in the context of culture.
“Culture is the linchpin from which we spring. The degree is not meant to violate culture, but to discover those rich aspects of our culture for women to develop.
“Women should discover for themselves areas of strong participation in national development as citizens in their own right – never surrendering themselves to second place in Zimbabwe’s quest for social justice, equality and equity. And it’s not a woman’s issue, men are an essential partner.”
While GZU’s Gender and Culture Studies department seeks to cultivate the “new man” in the lecture room, the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe is using cinema.
Led by internationally-acclaimed author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, WFOZ started the International Images Film Festival in 2002 to champion women’s issues.
In 2012, IIFF introduced the “New Man” category, which recognises films that portray men as positives role models and allies of women.
This year the “New Man” award was christened the “Walter Mparutsa New Man Award” to honour the late playwright, producer and actor.
IIFF festival director Yvonne Jila says, “The new man promotes the advancement of women in society. “He does not beat up his wife, neither does he murder her. Instead, he is responsible.
“What we see around us on a daily basis is a clear indicator that we need to do more to encourage healthy behaviour between men and women.
“Our overarching objective as a festival is to contribute towards change in behaviour, perception, and to drive the upliftment of women in society through film. We believe that the film narrative has the power to influence behaviour and change behaviours and attitudes.
“The more we consume films on the new man, the more we believe he exists, the more we believe that surely women and men can fight for a gender just society.”
Population Services International-Zimbabwe recently introduced male condoms in vanilla, banana and strawberry flavours with the slogan “I am The New Man in Town”.
Kumbirai Chatora, PSI-Zimbabwe director of social marketing, says: “We wanted to make condoms more trendy, more contemporary and for the man to feel proud.”
Condoms offer dual protection: from STIs, which include HIV and Aids, and from unwanted pregnancies.
By using condoms, a man is not only protecting himself, but his partner and the community as a whole.