It is apparent many in the region may not be aware of the Movember campaign. This may be viewed against the general lack of awareness of the International Men’s Day, observed every 19th November.
The day, which coincides with the campaign, came and went without rousing much if any interest to its observance (more of which in a moment).
Movember (moustache + November) is a health campaign that involves men growing their facial hair in an effort to promote conversations about men’s mental health and the various cancers particular to them.
It is a little-known fact that globally men are more affected by cancer than women. According to the World Health Organisation Globocan Report 2018, the incidence rate for all cancers combined is about 20 per cent higher in men than in women.
However, the incidence rates vary across regions in both males and females.
In East Africa, cancer of the cervix is the leading killer of all cancers accounting for 14,282 deaths, nearly double the number of people who died from the second-highest killer, oesophagus cancer.
These two, including prostate, breast and Kaposi sarcoma comprise the five-leading cancer killers in the region, specifically in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya combined.
Given the figures, therefore, it is no wonder there should appear to be relatively more awareness of cancers affecting women in the region. September, for instance, is the Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.
October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which appears the more highlighted around the region with the signature pink ribbon.
Though there have been highlights of Movember to varying degrees in some countries around East Africa as recently as last year, it does not appear to have taken hold.
The only reference I am aware of this year is the campaign in Kampala inviting men to screen for prostate cancer this month.
This relative lack of awareness may be measured with the lack of knowledge by many locally and globally of the existence of the day for men.
It may seem the only time curiosity grips many about whether a men’s day exists is during the International Women’s Day (IWD).
Come March 8 every year when IWD is observed, Google charts register a spike in people searching for men’s day.
Other than merely illustrating the general lack of awareness, this also implies the need to have challenges specific to men being highlighted, in addition to deserving a special day to contemplate them.
Perhaps this is more applicable in the region where arguably men’s issues are not always as well articulated as the women’s.
Examples abound. With the sustained emphasis on girls, for instance, concerns have been expressed that we could start seeing boys underperform in education, a claim some say is already beginning to show.
This has already been established in many countries in the West.
We also know that men are the majority in prisons. No doubt many deserve to be incarcerated, but as is increasingly being realised around the world it is worth understanding the inherent causes leading them to crime and what could be done about it.
Similarly, among others reasons, including being culturally conditioned to be emotionally inert, recall that men are also victims of violence.
These make a case for a special day for them, which its organisers aim to address in six key issues they refer to as “the 6 Pillars of International Men’s Day (IMD)”.
I think the pillars bear recounting in full, at least in answer to a commentary earlier this week that risked appearing to scoff at the day’s rationale.
The first pillar aims to promote positive male role models, not just movie stars and sports men but every day, working class men leading decent, honest lives.
Other pillars aim to celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment; focus on men’s health and wellbeing including social, emotional, physical and spiritual; improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
The day also aims to highlight discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law; and to create a safer, better world where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.
Before the usual feminist brigade raises its hackles, this is not to dismiss the prevalent patriarchy. Its grip remains in every socio-economic and political sector, with the gender disparities not likely to end soon.
According to the World Economic Forum, for instance, the pay gap which sees men earn more than women won’t close until 2186.
That said, however, it seems to me both the women and men’s international days are as inclusive as they aim for the same goals.
Both aim at improving gender relations and promoting equality. They also seek to create a safer, better world where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.
The opportunity is in focusing on challenges specific to either gender in so far as the observance of the international days allow. For this we should seek to better understand the men.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.