I have spent time bringing out the need for men and boys to be part of ending gender-based violence (GBV) on girls and women and I have also shown why females should be part of our leadership strategy to ensure sustainable development for our communities and country.
Women & Development by Nyaradzo Mashayamombe
The reasons were that women are the gatekeepers and they often have the burden of ensuring that a family is fed, children have gone to school, they care for the sick and they engage in labour for community development. Women are needed for campaigning during elections, either to run around mobilising support or to sing at political rallies. The situation sometimes is sad and highlights how men take advantage of women.
I want to get to explain on the practicality of what boys and the men can do to ensure that women and girls are not exploited, that as the gatekeepers they get a fair deal, are protected from harm and are participating fully in their communities for everyone’s development. I will get to the most basics that boys and men can do from their family level to protect girls and women.
So as a boy or young man in your family, you can make a difference in the life of your sister by ensuring that you get equal opportunities with your sister and that if that is not happening, you actually bring your parents or guardians to that understanding. I illustrated in one of our GBV trainings when we brought school representatives from Shurugwi, where we had pupils and teachers and I said to them; the reason why we have a statement like, Unoshanda pabasa uchiita zvaunoda semunhu anoshanda kwasekuru vake (You underperform on the job as if you are employed by your uncle) is a clear testimony in our culture of the dangers even to the boys and the men of excluding girls from opportunities, especially of education.
I explained that proverb or statement to them, that what it simply means is that, most young men or women in our societies got job opportunities through their uncles because the mother of this young person would not have made it in life, so she depends on her brother, the one who was given the opportunity to go to school. She would then send her children to her brother’s to get them something to do. Now because the sister was refused the education, she has nothing but hope and expectation that her educated brother can look after her children and send them to school as well as give them jobs because they are not qualified, he simply has to make a plan for the sister’s kids.
The very fact that the brother then has to worry about having to do whatever he can to assist the sister’s children, even at the expense of employing non-performing nephews, is a sign that the brothers have to ensure that their own sisters survive. This shows that it is in the best interest of everyone to ensure girls and young women have opportunities to change their own lives and not be a burden to others.
In such cases, boys can actively advocate in the family for their sisters to get equal opportunities to go to school. Sending girls to school, including those who are not intellectually talented, ensures that every child can be independent and become self-sufficient by spending enough years learning. This also ensures that as a people, we prosper.
Boys can also ensure that their sisters are protected from vulnerabilities such as sexual exploitation by speaking against child marriages in their families. As men, they have the privilege to sit in the planning committees and meetings where girls below the age of 18 are being married off.
Boys or young men and even mature men can choose to educate everyone in that meeting on the dangers of marrying off young women and ensuring that they actually take steps such as reporting to police cases of potential abuse and exploitation of girls if they insist on marrying them off.
As we commemorated the Orange Day on September 25, though I will probably explore more opportunities for boys and men to protect women, I would say let’s be the change that we want to see in our communities. Let’s treat another’s sister the way we want our sisters treated. Let’s care and look out for our women, speak against violence in the private and public spaces, especially for young women. Start with your friends; teach them to respect girls and women, and our families, communities and nation will thrive.
Nyaradzo “Nyari” Mashayamombe is the founder & executive director of Tag a Life International Trust (TaLI), a girl child rights organisation. She is a development consultant, entrepreneur and singer. Contact her on email: firstname.lastname@example.org