Men’s fear of day to day women’s emancipation sets a great challenge to gender issues in Africa and Rwanda in particular. This is happening at a time when women are making significant advances in regard to equality.
Almost all traditional social patterns that used to undermine women’s participation in the labour market, and consequently hinder the ability of households to escape from poverty have been checked.
Women’s emancipation therefore benefits all, including men. It is imperative to understand that in order to address poverty in households, we need policies and programmes aimed at redressing gender inequalities, since they will benefit not only women, but their families and the society as a whole.
To achieve this, Rwanda for example, has strongly worked at reducing the barriers that women face, particularly poor rural women. The process allows a more equitable distribution of workload at home and hence gives chance to the woman to go to school or be involved in some other developmental activities.
That is why, in education, the gap between men and women has been closing in most African countries, and in some cases, women have reached a higher level of education than men.
Ironically men feel imperilled by women’s emancipation. The so-called men-dominated world is now history and masculinists will tell you that men are at greater danger. Man feels that his power to dominate all affairs in society is going to be taken over by a woman. Man sees that what used to be a patriarchal society is turning matriarchal.
‘Some’ men are thus not feeling at ease with the changes and are actually acting as a stumbling block in all efforts aimed at transforming the society.
Men in most African societies do not see the new development as acceptable and have used all traditional socio-cultural norms to challenge it.
However, we should note with regret that men are only victims of ‘male and cultural chauvinism’. It is thus not correct to wholesomely blame traditional African men for refusing to embrace the emancipation of women.
Men have since time immemorial lived with women as their subordinates in this part of the world, and it wouldn’t be prudent to effect change with sudden force.
Let the change be slow and steady, as we encounter and address challenges here and there. We should, however, leave no stone unchecked as we prepare men in our communities to understand the importance of gender equality.
If I can borrow the words of a renowned Kenyan playwright, Professor Francis Imbuga, “when the madness of the entire society disturbs a solitary mind of a man, it is not enough to say that the man is mad”.
The society wrongly prepared the men to ‘sit on women’, not knowing that ultimately the two (on equal footing) end up suffering the consequences involved in the inequality.
The traditional uneducated men continue to refuse their wives to be involved in production. They do not allow their daughters to excel in schools and so on and so forth. What has been the end result of their actions? T
he very men are victims of their beliefs. They have remained to be sole bread earners, especially in cases where subsistence agriculture fails to keep the families going.
Only men go to look for work to get money to feed the family, because they are the ones the society allowed to get the required skills. Women are left behind to wait for men to bring money from wherever they go.
Such a situation has got a double negative impact. It affects the woman who with all the agony, waits to be spoon-fed by the husband.
The man does not benefit either, from keeping the woman far from production, as he is left with the donkey’s burden to cater for the entire family.
Such is the unfortunate scenario common in most rural African societies and is brought about by gender inequalities in society.
It is therefore sheer ignorance on man’s part to feel threatened when women are emancipating. I say this because their emancipation serves good all the society including men.
It is not logical for one to fear somebody who will help him from a big burden, an economic burden that men have had to endure for ages, as they keep their wives in doors to cook and produce.
Can a woman claim to be developing on her own without involving man?
The answer is no. Women, like men, work for mutual benefit. Man and woman only form two sides of one coin, at least in most African societies. It has only been men’s self deception.
And when a woman is left behind in economic development, then, be sure that thousands of men are in the same direction. That is why most of sub- Saharan Africa has been left behind nursing the vicious cycle of poverty.
No man should therefore feel threatened by the speed with which women are developing in all spheres of life. It is just a blessing.