Let’s celebrate the International Women's Day on March 8 with a vital message: when empowering women, we must include men. Okay, ladies, I am with you. While I can also feel your eyebrows rise as you think of all the inequalities we have gone through, perhaps you might want to calm down a little bit and continue reading.
First, let me start off with this question: Would you want future generations of men to grow to resent female empowerment? Now you can take time answering that before going through this narrative.
Thing is, women still march in the streets for the same fundamental rights men take for granted. Huge gaps remain in areas like women's education, health and economic opportunities, especially those in developing countries. But, really, this equality is more than an economic problem; it involves changing minds.
What’s really sad is some children don’t even understand this mechanic but have been raised and molded into creating some sort of bias towards other genders.
On a better note, in Canada, many men now show us they’re allies and march alongside women. This simple act can shift social dynamics and help recognize gender equity as a human rights issue that affects everyone. "We must also empower men [...] to challenge prevailing norms and change their behaviors," writes Maria Correia, World Bank Manager for Social Development. Even a 2013 World Bank study
supports this- examining two decades of research on gender equity programs, results showed that overlooking men can actually worsen inequality.
This is the very problem local community leaders like Willy Cheres were concerned about. "Our girls were rising up, but our boys were being left behind," she says. With the rising female empowerment, donors in Kenya's Maasai Mara had lined up to fund two Kisaruni schools for girls, but there was little support to build a school for boys. It became so prevalent that a 12-year old from Ottawa, Mitch Kurylowicz, was able to address this gap and raised funds in 2011.
With this, the first modern all-boys high school has been unveiled last January. Village elders christened it with a name, Ngulot
, Swahili for "strength" for they want their sons to be as strong as their daughters. But this new all-boys school isn’t like those you see in the movies. This will specifically offer education about culture-specific gender norms. That is, boys will be encouraged to take part in women’s chores and daily routines, encouraging them to break down the social construct of "women's work." Moreover, according to the UN Secretary General's High-Level Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment, valuing unpaid household work and sharing those jobs between genders are also crucial to gender equity.
So, winning the long-term battle for women's empowerment simply means ensuring that girls and boys learn a new paradigm together- nothing more, nothing less. No hard feelings and being left behind, just the pure understanding that we should all have equal rights.