‘Gender Cafes’ to tackle bias against women

L-R Rwanda Womens Networ's Annette Mukiga, Rwanda Mens Resource Center , Fidele Rutayisire, Imagine we Rwanda's Ms Dominique Uwase Alonga, Dr Zindaba Chisiza from University of Malawi during the Panel discussion. (Photos by Craish Bahizi)

Society has contributed much to the toxic masculinity, which is a global challenge.

This was an observation made by different activists on Wednesday during the first of the series of dialogues and debates under the name ‘Gender Cafés’, by UN WOMEN in partnership with the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.


The theme for the first session was “positive masculinity” and it featured a panel discussion that consisted different activists.



Dr Zindaba Chisiza from University of Malawi makes a point during Gender Cafe Meeting  (Craish Bahizi)

Panelists included Dr. Zindaba Chisiza, a senior Lecturer in the University of Malawi, Annette Mukiga from Rwanda Women’s Network, Ms. Dominique Uwase Alonga from Imagine We Rwanda, and Fidele Rutayisire from Rwanda Men’s Resource Center (RWAMREC).

During his intervention, Chisiza compared a newborn boy to a glass of milk.

“It is delicious, clean; very nice. And at some point something happens, that changes that boy that was clean and nice, into something really terrible,” he said as compared this to squeezing lemon into a glass of milk, which then instantly gets bad.

He compared the lemon juice to factors that lead to toxic masculinity and mostly society, claiming no man is born an oppressor, but society makes them that.

Pastor Hassan Kibirango from Christian Life Assembly (CLA), who was among the participants, said religion has somehow contributed to toxic masculinity, but God does not condone it.

“Church is a product of history, and we have a text called the Bible, which has some undertones and narratives that seem to be derogatory or pushing down women,” he said.

He however said that all is not lost, saying that Church can help to bridge the gap, and help men become more of the promoters of gender equality instead of being on the opposite side.

The dialogue rotated around how society influences masculinity in general.

Participants follow proceedings at the summit. (Craish Bahizi)

Fatou Lo, the UN WOMEN Country Representative said that she was happy that the Gender Café had been launched and would go a long way in dismantling toxic masculinity, but took issue with the habit name-calling during activism.

She was referring to inferences like “Men are Trash” a common phrase that is used by some activists agitating for gender parity.

“We have to be respectful of human rights, by avoiding antagonizing any groups. Name-calling likethe same way we don’t appreciate it as women, we also don’t appreciate anybody being called names. Whether it is men, people living with disability, people of different religious beliefs. When it’s applied to men it is bad, when it is applied to women it is bad”.

Oliver Dalichau of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung  makes his remarks at the summit.  (Craish Bahizi)

Olivier Dalichau, a representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung said they are happy, however, they will count it a success when gender inequality has been dismantled.

“We got positive feedback on this launch, but to say if it is a success, I would say, if we achieve to reduce or eliminate gender inequality, then I would call that success”.

Dalichau and Lo share the idea that this is a contribution that adds to other policies that are in place to achieve gender equality.

Gender Cafés are being organised ahead of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence that will run from November 25 to December 10.

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