WOMEN empowerment isn’t solely the responsibility of only females. The gender equality equation is incomplete without men. The adage ‘to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ makes so much sense in this aspect. For a man to appreciate women empowerment; you must walk in the shoes of a woman. Rwanda joined the rest of the world to mark International Women’s Day, but what has been the role of men in the empowerment journey? How many are ready to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes.
Edouard Munyamaliza, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, calls on more men to join the fight for gender equality, saying that women empowerment is not for only women, but also for men too and society at large.
He believes that if more men ‘walked in the shoes of women’ in the empowerment drive, more success will surely be registered.
“Men surely have a big role to play when it comes to supporting gender equality, but they should understand that the benefit from this helps them too and not women alone,” he says.
“Having women who are empowered lessens the burden on men, like being the sole providers in households, we have heard of men committing suicide because they have failed to provide for their dependants. With women empowerment, decisions on the other hand are taken as a couple and the bond in the relationship can improve tremendously which reduces conflicts in a home,” Munyamaliza points out.
However, for all this to be achieved, Munyamaliza says that men have to stand up and assume their role in fighting for gender equality.
“In the past, men were standing in the way of empowerment of women because they feared that empowered women will in time dominate them and they didn’t realise that their success would benefit them as well,” he says.
According to experts, gender equality is not a ‘women’s concern’ but the responsibility of all individuals and society as a whole. It requires the active contribution and input from both women and men.
In 2006, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on ‘men and gender equality’ noting that “in order to improve the status of women and promote gender equality, more attention should be paid to how men are involved in the achievement of gender equality, as well as to the positive impact of gender equality for men and for the well-being of society as a whole.”
Munyamaliza is of the view that men should refrain from any kind of violence towards women and instead, resort to supporting opportunities that can lead to their progress.
In addition, the engagement of men in the upbringing of children in a way that can help children adopt healthy and non-violent behaviour is a very crucial strategy in fighting gender-based violence, according to Munyamaliza.
“Research has proven that violence among spouses has a direct negative impact on children’s behaviour when they become adults, so definitely, constructive fatherhood is another big role a man can play in women empowerment,” Munyamuliza adds.
He calls upon men to play any role that can be supportive towards empowerment, political, economic or social, as long as it stands out to help advance women’s status.
Women are shapers of the world
When local artiste and doctor, Thomas Muyombo, popularly known as Tom Close, was growing up in the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda, his dreams were profoundly inspired by the woman he loved with all his heart, his mother.
He promised her that one day he would become a medical doctor, which he finally achieved.
“My mother passed away when I was still young, but the little time I had with her was deep enough to inspire the man I am today. We had that strong bond and she always encouraged me to be the strong man I am today; she was a caring woman who always put her family first in everything she did,” the singer recalls.
Muyombo believes that women have a great impact when it comes to shaping children, because they are the ones who spend the most time with them.
“When a child is growing up, the first person they don’t want to disappoint in most cases is their mother, and whatever a mother teaches their kid is taken seriously. This is why I believe most people are influenced by their mothers,” he says.
According to him, women deserve the best, and aside from the government’s efforts, men too should join the fight to see that the mothers of the nation get the empowerment they so much deserve.
“I believe that what has been done by the government is great although more needs to be done. Equal opportunities have been provided; girls and women have a chance at education. The rest is left to us men to ensure that we treat them well and provide them with the support they need,” he adds.
Joshua Tahinduka, a project development officer at a non-government organisation, reminisces about the times he had with his mother growing up.
He says that the struggles he saw his mother going though express the strength and endless capabilities women possess and with that, he declares his undying respect for all women in general.
“The role of a mother is huge, right from carrying you for nine months to making endless sacrifices, some of them forego their careers, mothers lay down their lives for us, and that’s why I think my mother deserves everything, and all mothers do,” Tahinduka says.
He adds, “I think the reason we are who we are is because our parents were able to take good care of us. My mother made sure we are well disciplined; our health was good and we learnt certain skills that are helpful in life.”
He believes that with the great influence women have on their children, empowering them would definitely be the best way to empower society at large.
Eric Maniraguha, a public servant, is of the view that Women’s Day is one such platform where men should actually express the love and respect they hold for women.
With the sacrifices women make for men, this day should be one where men show their massive support towards women empowerment, this way, our targets in the gender equality fight will be attained, Maniraguha suggests.
“Men wouldn’t do much without a female companion in their lives, with this, I suggest that they should be the ones to be at the forefront of the gender equality fight because they know what a woman’s value is,” he adds.
WHAT DOES WOMEN’S DAY MEAN TO YOU?
Yvan Buravan, musician
Women’s Day means a lot to me because it is this particular day that we get the opportunity to celebrate the blessings we get every day through our mothers, wives, daughters and all the women working hard for the world to be a better place.
Auguste Shumbusho, architect
Women’s Day should be that day when women are celebrated. Men should use this day to understand certain factors like recognising that we are not the only decision makers, women’s voices count too. We are all equal in the eyes of God; we should remember this at all times, always be supportive towards our female counterparts.
Elvis Izabayo, TV presenter
Women’s Day reminds me that I alone as a man cannot change the world but with a woman, we can do a lot. It also reminds me that God created women and they are brave, caring and have a captivating attitude. Women are architects of the society.
Florent Ndutiye, journalist
It mostly reminds me of how important my mother was in my life. It is also the day I honour all women and I think it is a chance for men to show our sisters, mothers and wives that they complete us.