|Daughters are humans, too!|
|Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:00|
My daughter turned six years on June 15 and I am over the moon. As I celebrate this landmark event in every proud dad’s life, I shudder as I reflect on the society that my lovely daughter and other girls her age find themselves in.
Many women and girls have been denied opportunities because of their sex. They suffer emotional, physical and sexual violence at the hands of the people who are supposed to love them as husbands, fathers and brothers.
Yet, the same women still bear the burden of HIV and Aids.
This got me thinking about Father’s Day, which is celebrated annually, in a new way. I am asking myself, why fathers should be celebrated when all these injustices, a lot of them perpetuated by men, still continue in our communities.
Zimbabwe, like many African states, is patriarchal. As a man and a father, I find it totally embarrassing to be associated with a generation of men that refuses to treat women and girls with equal dignity. I have endured long arguments with very learned and half literate men alike that share the similar notion that because one is a woman, they have to be subservient to the man.
Because one is a woman, she has to do all the care work and household chores despite the fact that they are tired and are coming from work, whether formal or informal, just like their male counterparts.
That generation of men also refuses to accept that the role of women in society has evolved and many women bring more food to the table than men. Some men would rather spend their earnings on alcohol and not provide for their families.
The same generation also believes that “real men” beat their wives once in a while in order to stamp their “authority”.
A greater number of men has not been responsible enough and demonstrated that men can make a difference to the quest for gender equality. There are worrying trends where men look and do not condemn violence against women and tolerate sexist jokes.
As long as men don’t speak out against these injustices, they will remain part of the problem of gender inequality. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
This is the time for fathers to wake up and smell the coffee. Gender imbalances are now a thing of the past. A new generation of men should rise to the call and ensure that women and girls enjoy equal opportunities as men.
Some men still feel pressured to have large families they cannot sustain because they want a son in order to have a social standing. I say to hell with the social standing! Daughters are human too and deserve their place in life and history.
Their stories should be celebrated, they should go to school just as boys go to school.
Just as we love our daughters, fathers must have the same love for their sons and teach them to grow into progressive men who embrace gender equality and do not perceive women as a threat.
Unless fathers play their role in grooming a “new” generation of men who respect women, many women will remain marginalised in society.
I salute all the men who are making a difference in the lives of women and girls in Zimbabwe.
Let us continue to make efforts to end gender inequalities in society. Many fathers want happy families and we want security of our families to be guaranteed. This can only happen when we start dialogue with other men and boys to demystify notions of “power” and “authority.”
Men should remind each other and appreciate the fact that they stand to benefit from better relationships with their loved ones. A smile in the morning, communication in times of disagreement and agreement all make a difference.
An equitable world is possible, it starts with men and boys who can redefine masculinity. — Genderlinks
Leo Wamwanduka is a gender activist and director of Envision Zimbabwe Women’s Trust.