It seems that lately the fad in the gender equality discourse, has been to call for men to pledge their support to gender equality through the call for #Heforshe. But I feel that pledging is not a new thing that men have been doing.
Why, in 2016, do we have to put money towards creating space for men to pledge commitment? They have been pledging commitment since it was fashionable. Let them deliver on the promises they have made, as our Presidents, government representatives and funding partners, before rushing to make new commitments!!
For me #HeForShe disregards the very important role that real commitment, and women’s agency plays in achieving the real emancipation of women. In my sometimes crazy imagination, #HeForShe is a sophisticated negotiation tactic, deployed to mitigate, the growing conversations calling for real resources, to be put towards funding women’s rights. I can picture it clearly.
“Sitting on one end of the table are the men. Having arrived in jets, and chauffeured vehicles, they are fresh and rested. They sit at the negotiation table, in the same way they have sat at International platforms, in government buildings and in fancy offices in the capitals of the world. The brothers, in their designer suits and comfortable shoes are aggrieved. Their conversations are couched in rhetoric about the plight of the boy who is being ‘left behind’. In their pockets are stacks of multi-currency bills that represent all that belongs to mankind. But they are clear! Man is the only mankind and womankind is the helper. The lucky ones will get marital benefits and the rest are owed a meagre salary, with no benefits, especially not medical aid.
In high heels, flat pumps, and barefooted, are the women sitting on the other end of the table in their multi coloured attires. Unlike their brothers, they have walked, hitch hiked and carpooled to make it for this negotiation. They are clear, the lives of women need to improve. They want access to water, health care, and to make enough money to feed their families. They want to make decisions for themselves, and not send men, as their proxies, to share their thoughts and make decisions. Oh, and yes, sometimes they just want to sit by themselves, touch base and mark their progress.
The negotiations are very quick. How do we reach a ‘win-win’ situation? It’s simple. The men will continue to speak on behalf of the women. The women will be given a small stipend to continue doing what they need to do. In return, they will let the men sit in on their meetings, whenever they are touching base and marking their progress. And don’t worry the men will continue to be their proxies but will make the right decision this time! Gender equality here we come!“
That’s how I see it. However I’m still unsure how creating more space for men to speak on women’s rights, will advance women’s voice, choice and agency. My government has failed to put real money towards women’s health, mitigating violence against women and providing gender sensitive service delivery. Yet, they have pledged to advance women’s rights through signing binding documents at SADC, AU and International level.
They are clear that they are all for women’s emancipation. My government has many men who have pledged their commitment to gender equality and women’s rights for decades. Can those pledges not be counted as #HeForShe commitments? If so #HeForShe hasn’t delivered as it should.
So I’m okay if we don’t get any new commitments from men to do their part towards the attainment of gender equality. I just want them to deliver on the pledges that they still haven’t delivered on!
Article written by Tsitsi Mhlanga.
Tsitsi is passionate about working to advance women’s rights. She has seven years experience in working with governance and democracy issues. She loves music and is a Zimbabwean with an attitude!
Main image taken from theinspirationroom.com