Breaking Barriers: Stakeholders Convene to Engage Men in Gender Equality and Anti-Violence Initiatives

By Lenah Bosibori

Stakeholders from different countries in Africa have convened in Nairobi for a three-day workshop to discuss how to engage men in gender Equality and Anti-Violence Initiatives.

Wells Munthali, chairperson for Central Region for the Men for Gender Equality Now in Malawi, said the society expected a lot from men but currently things have  changed compared to the time he grew up.

“When we grew up, our generation was told not to cry as a man. We were also told to persevere even when you met hardships and always work hard even when the energy is down but society still expected a lot from us,” said Munthali.

Munthali was speaking in Nairobi during a regional Men-to-Men Workshop organized by The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) that brought together stakeholders, organizations male champions and allies from different countries in Africa.

The workshop seeks to encourage open discussions and share experiences, best practices in promoting male engagement and gender equality. It also includes an evaluation of the Women and Girls’ Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) projects advancement and serves as a platform for formulating strategies to increase male involvement in promoting positive masculinity as a contribution to the cause of gender equality.

Munthali also notes that society also required men to be in charge of things even above their sisters who were even older than them simply because they were men who society expected to have more responsibilities compared to girls.

According to Women in power in 2023: New data shows progress but wide regional gaps, More women than ever hold political decision-making posts worldwide, but gender parity is still far off, according to the 2023 edition of the IPU-UN Women Map of Women in Politics.

“We are now realizing that we are human beings and as human beings we must express our emotions and feelings, you don’t need to work nonstop for everything because you might end up exploding and explosion is what causes gender-based violence,” says Munthali.

Munthali emphasized the importance of the  Nairobi workshop as it looked forward  to ways of mobilizing men around gender equality and preventing gender-based violence.

“Men have been labeled as perpetrators but sometimes it is because men never knew what was expected of them from the society and moving forward, we want to encourage men to be able to open up and express themselves because men are also human beings and not special beings,” added Munthali.

Munthali called for equal gender equality amongst men and women. “I have no problems with submission, I have problems with enslaving someone through submission, some countries have really spread ahead in developments simply because women have been given that space,” added Munthali.

The 45-year-old father looks back at how society has changed and urges Men to speak up and work towards a balanced society where both genders are empowered.

According to Munthali, society has a problem where men feel disempowered because women and girls have been very empowered and most young men don’t want to be in a relationship with a woman who is very empowered because men don’t want criticism.

“Many men feel disempowered as women and girls are empowered, it leads to fear amongst men in our societies, this should stop and men will open up,” added Munthali.

On her part, Faith Nashipa the Chief Executive Officer Thriving Communities Africa and advocate of men and boys, says society has done very little for the boy child yet the women have evolved over the years.

“We can do better by telling our children the truth, we need to have a closer look on what we are training about boy children, particularly concerned about the kind of training coming out of the rights of passage process for the boychild,” said Nashipa.

“Some cultures give our sons a wrong narrative during the rights of passage, there are several things that need to change, we need to evaluate the process of circumcision of the country,” said Nashipa.

“Our men need to know that it is not working for them, our sons are taught and been initiated into patriarchy by their fathers, we have done very little to change this narrative,” said Nashipa.

Nashipa emphasizes the importance of recognizing and appreciating the men who have supported women’s empowerment.

According to Nashipa, there is an importance of understanding and addressing the socialization of men and boys to achieve gender equality,

“We should not leave men and boys behind, what we need to do is to bring everyone on board and help them evolve from patriarchy, our narrative needs to be very clear and we are not trying to make them not become men or make them become less men,” said Nashipa.