It is widely believed that generation Y commonly known as Millennials by demographers and researchers has produced more young men who are gender-sensitive, especially with regard to the power balance between women and men. This should be a great achievement; one that gives us hope of achieving even better results in the future.

Although the present narrative of the set-gender equality goal for the year 2030 is far from its intent, globally women have been classified as the ‘weaker sex’ but how this came about will be one of life’s unsolved mysteries, given that no small number of women are actually the most powerful-minded beings on earth.  This may be difficult to understand because society has socialised us to believe that women are either second-class citizens or unfit to assume the same levels of power, respect and leadership as men.  This is an issue that needs to be tackled vehemently, especially if the world is to achieve its goals for gender equality.

Every man, no matter where he is from or what he believes in, has an obligation to change this toxic narrative that has been unfairly imposed on girls and women. This change can be driven – and in fact, must – by men of all ages and backgrounds, but the current generation (the one that champions gender equality the loudest) must model this commitment.

Younger people must be consistent and united in their refusal to let unequal treatment of women take place.  There are a number of things they can do in their own lives – the most obvious ones being to never abuse or discriminate women or girls – but they must also be supportive.  Three key gestures that embody this are:

 

SUPPORT WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THEIR AMBITIONS

The dreams of countless women and girls have been cut short as a result of societal norms, sexist perceptions, and diminishing beliefs that can be traced back to the background or upbringing of the male child.  Nigerian men have come to believe that the core purpose of marriage is to ‘get’ a woman – one who will run the household and make it a home.  But to be able to run a household does not mean that this is the sheer limit to a woman’s abilities – if, in fact, she is even good at running a household in the first place.  It is not for men to say that women are not capable of more, or are not allowed to develop themselves or seek further knowledge.

As we know it, many Nigerian women or girls who are promised educational or professional opportunities after marriage never see them come to pass.  A huge reason for this is male fear: the fear that one day she might become too knowledgeable or too enlightened to understand her place in the home.  A flimsy excuse from the so-called ‘stronger sex’, if ever there was one.

According to some women, their lives would be inordinately better if only their partners supported their educational and career goals wholeheartedly, without fear or possessiveness.  Some men who are religious have been known to discourage women or impose sanctions upon them that are not reflected in their own sacred texts.

 

TRUST WOMEN WITH THEIR DECISIONS

This is one of the major challenges facing women where their decisions are seen as unimportant.  The critical decision-making of women is often denigrated, yet evidence shows that women are, in some contexts (such as peace-building), actually better inclined to lead than men, and are capable of strategic leadership in the home front and on the global stage with equal capability. Great women have successfully lead countries, delegations, ministries and international organisations, many of which have historically been helmed by men only.

We always say that inequality cannot be achieved without the input of men.  This is a fact, not so much because of the innate sanctity of male judgement so much as there is a need for men to use their relative power to help dissemble unequal power structures that oppress women.  But for this goal to be a success, men have to support and respect the decisions of women on issues that concern community development and the fight for a better world – especially as it concerns the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women in particular.

 

PRIORITISE HER DIGNITY

Although a lot of men were trained or have learned over time to treat a woman with callousness or indifference, this can be changed.  If every man who definitely has a woman in their homes or environment as sisters, aunties, mothers, cousins and neighbours does their best to first enlighten the young boys in their homes about how to see women as peers, support her empowerment, protect her and support her in protecting herself from abuse and see her as not a microcosm of a weaker sex but as a fully-fledged and nuanced human being… well, this perception can be changed.  It’s not just charity that begins at home: equality does, too.  As does abuse and the slow-drip degradation of female identity, which starts from a young age and eventually gives birth to other practices that deprive the girl child or woman from becoming who she wants to be.

 

CONCLUSION

Now these three pointers were a few derived from the discussions I have had with different women, all of whom hailed from totally different age groups and environments.  It is sad to say that one element remains constant between such diverse people, and even in these pointers: there is a fundamental distrust of women’s opinions on matters that concern them in any aspect of life, and the solution to this is seen to be the involvement of a man – either directly or indirectly.  Men need to understand that gender equality is not about overthrowing male superiority in exchange for female superiority, but rather, about being fair, respected, and dignified as a human being before anything else.

 

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