Engaging boys and men in working for girls and women's rights will benefit everyone

Great work is currently done around the world to make sure that the lives of girls and women are safe and prosperous. In the process, we should not leave out, boys and men, the other half of humanity because their participation will ensure the sustainability of our works.

All societies are filled with gender stereotypes; children regularly learn to adopt gender roles. These gender stereotypes and gender roles would vary depending of different factors such as the ethnicity, the cultural heritage, the financial status, the structure of the family.

Socialization within the family defined gender stereotypes as the widely held beliefs about characteristics thought appropriate for males and females. Gender roles refer to the reflection of gender stereotypes in everyday behavior.

Socialization within the family stated that some personality traits that are stereotypically regarded as masculine and feminine. Stereotypical masculine traits include being active, aggressive, ambitious,  independent, competitive, dominant, self-confident or feeling superior. Stereotypical feminine traits include being considerate, emotional, gentle, home-oriented, kind, passive, to like children, being devoted to others. 

"Both men and women are guilty of objectifying themselves and each other," Courtney Han said on social pressures faced by Duke students. "By including both sides of the gender divide in the dialogue, we as a campus can move further away from group-think and irresponsible feminism to refocus on the abilities, talents and passions we brought as freshmen to Duke. We owe that much to ourselves, and to each other."

Including men in the empowerment process of tomorrow's women will ensure the sustainability of our efforts. It is important that we include men for several reasons. First, the gender roles and gender stereotypes need to be acknowledged whenever we communicate to men. If a tradition or a local custom is not life-threatening to girls or women, outsiders should show respect.

It's the most empowering thing and beautiful thing when a girl, tomorrow a woman, receives the unconditional love of her father (Photo: Howiviewafrica)

On the African continent, societies are often patriarchal. As a result, conversations on issues  faced by girls and women as well the right strategies needed to overcome them must include men. Including boys and men will allow them to understand that empowering girls and women has nothing to do with taking away their manhood or imposing them a foreign culture.

The pessimistic ones need to be convinced that each African girl or young woman with a high school diploma or an university's degree is an excellent investment for her family. An African educated woman is an invaluable asset whenever she becomes a wife or a mother. And yes, an African educated women will put her family first.

Men in Africa need to understand that by engaging themselves in women's rights such as keeping their homes, neighborhoods and cities free from sexual predators, they make sure that another man's mother, daughter, sister, relative, friend, girlfriend, or wife is also safe. African women need their African men to stand by their side. 

Anna da Costa has invited the international community to mobilize young men to end violence against women in India. In a country where almost 40 percent of women will experience some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence at the hands of men, this may seem a counterintuitive notion, da Costa said. Some organizations such as the Equal Community Foundation (ECF) are working with men to combat gender violence and achieve parity between the sexes. An ECF graduate explained that the organization teaches them about women, and help them understand how to interact with girls as friends, something he can't talk to his parents about but he really appreciates.

Daddy Doyin, proud father of two and blogger (Photo: Daddy Doyin)
On the African continent and elsewhere, men have their share of social struggles. These social struggles often rooted in the gender stereotypes and the gender roles they learnt from childhood. For some, they are victims of the expectations established within their societies. 

In an article published on Time, Christina Hoff Sommers said that masculinity is more than a mask. She has suggested that we should appreciate the difference between healthy and pathological masculinity, acknowledge the virtue of male reserve, make clear that boys are psychologically sound and resilient, include specific ideas on how to help boys with depression or thoughts of suicide.

Daddy Doyin, father of two and blogger, sparked an internet storm after posting a picture of himself taking care of his daughters on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote on his blog that he took a paternity leave from his corporate job to bond with his 3-month old daughter.

"I have a dream that insecure dads will spend less time hating on good dads and more time on getting their own [stuff] together. I'd say 95% of the dads who follow me are actively involved in their kids' lives and view parenting as a 50/50 endeavor with their wives/girlfriends." Daddy Doyin said."They send me "Thank You" emails, they'll say it's refreshing to see a guy (me) who embraces fatherhood as much as they do, and they'll refer other good dads to my blog because they know I'll celebrate them."

In his TEDx speech, Jackson Katz said that social issues such as sexual violence are men's issues. Definitely, we should encourage men to join conversations and to work for issues that affect their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their friends, their girlfriends, or the wives.

Putting the "men" in "women's" issues is essential, if we want to make a lasting difference for girls and women on the African continent and elsewhere.

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