Gender Forum With Ruth Butaumocho—
“We have begun to raise daughters more likes sons, but few have the courage to raise our sons like our daughters”.
The above quote from American gender activist and journalist Gloria Steinem is reflective of the paths the majority of parents have taken to raise their children, in a bid to suit the dictates of gender equality.
With the world warming up to gendered leadership, propelling women to the top and opening up a host of new opportunities, more families than before now want the girl child to explore opportunities available without worrying about her physiology.
Irrespective of the social divide, most parents now want their daughters, nieces and cousins to take up courses that were once regarded as a male preserve.
They now want their daughters to break the glass ceilings and aim higher, far beyond what other girls ever thought would be achievable 20 years ago.
The drive, zeal and passion by some parents to ensure that the girl child fits within the newly defined modernity frame that now recognises that girls are as good as boys, has seen some parents investing in this socialisation process.
The socialisation process has not been confined to academia alone, but has seen religious organisations and the extended family playing different roles in sensitising the girl child that she can now compete for opportunities and be at par with boys.
It is no wonder that in the last 10 years Zimbabwe has witnessed an increase in number of female students taking up sciences, enrolling in technological universities where they are taking courses in actuarial science, aviation and robotics.
All of a sudden “gender equality” has become a buzzword.
If anything, parents are socialising their daughters to be high flyers, achievers, perfectionists, aggressors and all other traits that are associated with masculinity.
They want their daughters to emulate all the positive attributes associated with men so that they can compete and be at par with them. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Even the girls themselves have become empowered that now they want the same space boys are occupying, because they believe that achievement has got nothing to do with one’s physiology but has got everything to do with capability.
The girls have witnessed high flying cases, typifying gender equality across the broad spectrum of life, whether it’s in economics, politics or the social arena.
They know of women who have become heads of state, secretaries of state; participants in revolutionaries as leaders or catalysts, she-dare devils that have been flying the planes for decades now, while others have landed on the moon.
The female population can attest that it has indeed become a world of possibilities; a world that is no longer defined by one’s physiology, but spurred by passion, zeal and intelligence.
However, while society, several non-governmental organisations and other supporting institutions are so engrossed in socialisation process, there has been little or no effort being done to ensure that sons are also raised to become and behave like daughters.
Boys or men should also learn and appreciate the positive attributes of women or girls so that they begin to co-exist and appreciate their differences.
Men’s involvement in gender programming is a crucial buy-in process, which ensures that both boys and men become active agents of change.
They will have every reason to advocate and enable the process, because they know accrued benefits will eventually cascade to both sexes in the long run, stemming from a shared vision and an undying passion to co-exist.
Unfortunately that has not been the case, because a number of gender programmes in a number of institutions have take women or girl centred approaches, side-lining or alienating boys and men, who have a critical role to play in gender equality.
It becomes a crucial element to extend the same socialisation process to the boy child so that they can appreciate and understand where the girls are coming from, and be able to offer a hand should the need arises.
Once the socialisation process of raising sons to behave like daughters begins taking shape, we will be able to notice the change, which starts in the home, and eventually cascade into the society.
Naturally if a boy sees his father treating his mother and sisters with respect, he will pick on it, and is most likely to behave in the same way.
However, if the same boy is exposed to abuse, where his father beats up his mother everyday, neglects the family, the young lad will mostly become an abuser.
It is within the same framework that society needs to rethink what it values in men. We should not continue raising sons to be violent, egoistic, striving and competitive all the time, but we should also teach them to be caring and show their protective side.
Boys should learn that there is nothing wrong in being both a breadwinner and caregiver, and yet be a respected man. The attributes are not in any way a sign of weakness on their part, but are good aspects of humanity that each one should strive to have.
The women in our lives should raise sons to behave like daughters by telling them that violence and all forms of abuse are social vices that should be condemned.
They should remind them that violence is not in any way a masculine trait, neither are tears a feminine misgiving, but they should strive to hold, maintain and sustain peace all the times.
Boys must not feel that by being caring, abstaining from violence, it will threaten their masculinity, but that it makes them better individuals, who will respect and nurture women and girls within their midst.