Which way Forward?
When I received the invitation to attend this event,organised by ‘Make Every Woman Count’ founded by Rainatou Sow a passionate advocate of issues affecting women and a friend; I was excited as I know how hard MEWC works on not only empowering women,but making their voices heard and be taken seriously.
So,first thought- It is a women’s event,organised by women for women~Right? I was however pleasantly surprised and happy when I saw the program on the day with a Session on:”Working with Men and Boys to Advance Gender Equality: How can we Engage Men as Part of the Solution”
Why was I happy? From my experience as an advocate on creating awareness and support on
Domestic Violence,each time I approach men about what we do in my organisation or invite them to events; the usual response is-‘I don’t think I will fit in- it is a women’s thing’ when in actual fact not only are affected by domestic violence too,majority of perpetrators are Men. So I often find myself explaining how they can benefit by participating or attending : educating/ mentoring other men for instance,provide advice/ signpost someone they know,maybe friend,sister,daughter or mother when they need help,
Even if it is a women’s issue.
Back to the event,there were 3 sessions including 10 years of the implementation of the Maputo protocol, ICT as Tools Empowerment: how African Women are using Technology and Social Medial for Economic,Political and Social Empowerment.
Session 2 was ‘Engaging Men’ one of the questions asked was why men are not engaging? The Panel consisted of Five Men- all experts in what they do and passionate about supporting,nurturing and empowering women.
I actually know two of the Men on the Panel- Sam Onigbanjo of Women4Africa an organisation that promotes African women working to make a difference in the society. Ernest Okwudike-CEO of Alliance 54 and Founder of African Global Women in Business Forum. Ernest’s experience is similar but opposite to mine in that he ‘s been asked many times why is involved in Women in Business.
All five men agreed that socialisation and mindset are some of the reasons Men are not Engaging; ae well as upbringing and societal expectations,but that it is time for Change as’If one does not embrace Change; it will pass one By’ Women are Supreme they concluded ,citing various examples. One of the Panelist’s(Musa) mum who is a Doctor was in the audience and cited Inclusion and access to education by both boys and girls as a way of bridging the inequality gap.
I sat in the audience wishing I could clone all of them and make them decision makers in Africa(Mmmm) as only 36 out of the 54 member states of the African Union have so far ratified the Maputo Protocol~10 years on;some including Female Genital Mutilation and Gender Based Violence as prosecuting offences.
Soyata Maiga; Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in the rights of Women in Africa declared “The adoption of the Maputo protocol was an exceptional moment,historical for the realisation of the rights of Women in Africa. Today this instrument constitute a model,an endless source of inspiration; if fully ratified and implemented,it can represent a real tool of action for lasting transformation of our society”
The Maputo Protocol includes~ Right to Dignity,Life,Integrity and Security of Person.
Here is to :welcoming more Men on Board as part of the Solution to advancing Gender Equality.