In a very remote village, some rural women are getting entertained by some city women. They had come to show a drama and share some words of encouragements. The rural women would return to their homes with some new ideas of how the men subjugate them and take undue advantages of women. Each woman must now find a way to assert her powers in a society where she is treated as a second-class citizen. This is often how discords about gender equality begin in typical African communities. Homes that enjoyed relative peace may begin the long painful process of disintegration. In typical African societies, such programs that enlighten women and make them defiant in the face of unjust social conditioning are resisted.
Most cultural or religious tales of the world’s origin often state that the Creator made a man and a woman. It is ordinarily believed that the presence of male and female components of humanity establishes a balance on which families and communities are built. Issues arise when roles are assumed or assigned based on gender. Most popular opinions believe that men are natural leaders over women with the other less popular opinion crying foul. Women world over are no longer contented with having any seat on the table of humanity, they want to swap seats with the man in ways that give them a comparative advantage. And that is where the problems begin.
There appears to be a lot of anger towards men because they are often champions or at least beneficiaries of the patriarchal system that suppress women. But the man has not deliberately signed up to make women miserable. It could be that the man is a product of the society and only acts in accordance with what he was taught by all the agents of socialization. Would it be safe to say that the man is also a victim of a dysfunctional system? Like a musician who tunes up his performance as people cheer louder and throw money into his hat, so is human nature when there are things is profit to be made. If a man enjoyed some benefits because he is a man, why would he want to give that up? I feel the attack and anger should not be towards the man but towards the system that determines what the ‘norm’ should be. But that is on the one hand. On the other hand, do women have the rights to demand equality in a world they live and help build up?
Many people think that equality between men and women is essential to have a more progressive world. Women have slightly less population in the world than men. According to the World Health Organization, there are 100 women for every 105 men in the world. However, men are in more than ninety per cent of leadership positions in the world. It is a fact that women do more work than men and are often more vulnerable. It is also a fact that women do not always rise to the height of their careers because they do not have as many opportunities as men. This reflects in the politics of Africa with a rare exception in Rwanda which has equal numbers of men and women in Parliament. Experience has shown that having a certain number of women in leadership does not also imply that they wield as much power as men in similar positions. So, do I think women have legitimate claims? yes they do!
The pertinent question on the lips of many is, will there ever be a time when men will become women and women become men? Irrespective of what you may think should be the right answer, I must quickly point out that the principles of gender equality do not suggest that men and women switch roles. Women and men must keep the unique characteristics that differentiate them, for that is the only way they remain unique and complementary. Everyone can agree that women and men are important in every society. Inclusion and recognition must become important aspects of daily life. This implies that social, educational, health, political and economic systems in every society must support equal levels of development among men and women.
Gender equality connotes ensuring that everyone gets what she/he lacks. What African men must learn is to break down barriers that hamper the development of women. This understanding is very important because all women do not want the same thing. While there are women who may aspire to the top of their chosen career paths, others may want a quiet family life. This is the same for men; they all don’t want to become commandos, presidents or lords over people. The key message is to allow each person to discover for themselves what lifestyle is the best fit for them.