Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Conferences and Social Media' Women Activists promoting bad gender equality debate.

" As much as I want to earn my own money, I also want to have a happy family so that I can spend the money to educate my children and treat my husband well" . Quote from a woman Leader in Eastern Kenya.

I am one of the greatest supporters of empowering women and girls and I have been implementing projects that are improving livelihoods for them. I do firmly believe that for the rural communities, women play a vital role in feeding their families etc. I do however feel that wrong attention is being given to the girl child. Even in projects that entirely involve women as primary beneficiaries, we work with men all along to ensure greater harmony and success that often leaves happy families. Its important that both men and women appreciate that they were created differently and can never replace each other.

Men are wrongly blamed for the woes that face women and yet on the contrary, its men who are aiding women to rise up economically, socially and politically.

From my interaction with both women and men, it is common knowledge that most women are more jealous of their fellow women than men. In most corporate companies,female bosses would rather promote men than women and are more than happy to be the only ones in an environment surrounded by men. Female bosses are known to treat female employees badly. In politics, it is widely known that women prefer voting for men than women.

I have seen some organizations trying to use the issue of women empowerment to promote the idea that girls are denied a chance to study sciences which I totally disagree with. Sometime last year, I gave a talk at a girls high school and I asked why there ain't many girls studying Engineering. The girls simply answered that they think Engineering is hard and involves more masculine duties. On the contrary, many of the girls wanted to study medicine. Would you blame men for having less women Engineers?

Some women activists have argued that its lack of education that is causing sexual exploitation in women. I have always insisted that its not about education but rather values and poverty in some cases. Most of the female prostitutes in cities are educated. Most have at least high school education and some are college students and even working women. Its women allowing themselves to be portrayed as 'sex objects' and hence we cannot blame men for this. Do you blame men for women exposing their bodies in order to sell music? Do you blame men when most women will jump at every rich man around?

Most  of the women activists talking about women empowerment are alienating girls by pitting them against men. Some activists set a bad precedent and often want to use young girls as a tool to revenge against their own relationship problems with men. When girls get pregnant when they are still in school, is it because they are not educated?

Many women activists are only seen in conferences, on social media and in cities and towns. Having grown up in the village, and now working in many villages in Africa, I have seen few women in the communities being involved in the debate about women empowerment. Many of the women in the villages have no idea about the issues that are often propagated by a few women activists. Why do most women both educated and uneducated not agreeing with the message being propagated by most of the women activists? Majority of own female friends, who are well educated and have good careers and are even helping their own communities totally disagree with most of the messages often said by women activists in the media, in conferences and on social media. Why is it that we have very few women, educated in Africa, working in Africa and raising stable families, who are actively involved in some of the issues being talked about by the women activists?

From my experience working in pastoral communities, women empowerment means different things for different communities depending on the culture and way of life. If you tell most women in pastoral community about equality it may just seem like playing a Michael Jackson song to a donkey. If the men stay awake at night to protect the families, and are required to protect the community during conflict,  are their women ready to do that?

Neglecting the boy child isn't going to make girls to be empowered. Will the girls live in a vacuum without men?  Check out the following article in the Daily Nation: http://bit.ly/PFNwM4

If indeed all the efforts and money being pumped into women empowerment in Africa was working well, we shall be having many women speaking loudly about women issues. The fact that in Africa, most of the women activists are either foreign nationals, or Africans schooled abroad or women with unstable families; is totally worrying and will not serve to ensure more women and even men join the crusade on gender equality.

In conclusion, I believe a more radical shift needs to be taken to ensure equality in our society. Both men and women should be given equal rights and I believe instilling right values both at the family level and as a society is what will ultimately help in ensuring everyone prospers happily. Most men have continued to support women for so many decades and it will be wrong to totally ignore them. We should also ensure both men and women at grass-root level understand the issues we talk about or else we shall just continue 'making noise'.

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