Gender advocacy needs new approach

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Pascalinah Kabi

LESOTHO has made positive strides in fostering gender equality owing to the advocacy initiatives that were carried out decades ago.

Among these positive strides include the fight for economic independence which gives voice to women to stand up for their rightful place in society.

As stated in the Gender-based Violence Indicators Study Lesotho, the role of economic independence cannot be overemphasised in ending gender inequalities like violence against women (VAM), child marriages, sexual abuse, property grabbing and employment inequalities.

Women who are economically-empowered have a louder voice and ample choices at their disposal to challenge societal norms.

Through domesticating international conventions, the government of Lesotho has paved the way for civil society organisations, development partners and other interested parties to help address gender inequalities in our societies.

These gender advocacy programmes mostly target women and children primarily because they are the main victims of gender inequality.

I like the fact that these programmes do not just focus on giving women and children a voice. They empower them with entrepreneurship skills among others and economically empowering the underprivileged.

I can vividly remember that the gender advocacy programmes were intensified by the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women.

The conference gave birth to campaigns such as 50/50 demanding that both men and women must have an equal say.

While I was in my teens at the time world leaders gathered in Beijing, China to come up with this landmark gender convention, I vividly remember that as a youth leader I had a problem with the interpretation of this 50/50 campaign and to date, I still hold the same view.

My problem with the 50/50 campaign was that it never really has a specific message solely targeting our sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and the list goes on.

Men were and are still left in the cold when it comes to ending gender inequality; yet 40 percent of Basotho men admitted in a study conducted by Gender Links that they had abused women once in their lifetime.

Besides being some of the drivers of gender inequality in our society; men are drivers of change in ending gender inequalities in our societies.

We live in a world, especially Africa, where women’s voices are still missing from the executive branches of governments and parliaments; making it harder to come up with gender-sensitive laws and policies.

With women representation in Lesotho’s National Assembly declining by 27.2 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2015, men hold the powers to enacting laws seeking to end gender inequality.

The higher representation of men in decision-making positions is not only in parliament but even in government, a body that makes research and come up with drafts for such policies is mostly made up of our male counterparts.

So, if we genuinely want to win this fight and end gender inequality in Lesotho and elsewhere on the continent, we seriously need to change the gears.

Our gender advocacy programmes must now target men as agents of change, not to say that women aren’t.

Biblically and traditionally, men are regarded as leaders and for us to win the gender inequality war, we need men in our gender advocacy corner. We need to make them see the light, not to make them feel like our gender messages are out to get them. We need to strategically come up with messages that will make men understand that in essence leaders are servants, just like Jesus was.

According to John 13:1-5, Jesus, regardless of His status as son of God, washed His disciples’ feet.

In this way, Jesus set a very good example that being a leader practically translates to being a servant.

Having interacted with men from all quarters of life in my capacity as a journalist, I can safely say that men strongly feel left behind. They want to be active partners in ending gender inequality.

They feel like instead of being included in the campaigns, they are being attacked; hence they arm themselves with defence mechanisms.

Coming up with strategies targeting men will not just address issues of gender inequality in our continent but also help raise future husbands and dads who will adhere to principles of gender equality.

Remember that children learn by listening, watching and doing and if children grow in an environment where gender inequality is prevalent, they will later on perpetuate the same inequality we are working so hard to eliminate as per the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

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