Cultivating Respectful Gender Relationships for Sustainable Development

This post is written by Prudence Nyamishana.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is set. Uganda has outlined her priorities in the National Development Plan Vision 2040.

This Agenda is focused on leaving no one behind; the young and the old, male and female. Even though the female youth face unique challenges that range from child marriages, teenage pregnancies, defilement, rape, questions of safe abortion and high maternal mortality rates caused by early marriages, there is need for an inclusive approach that brings the boys and the men on board to deal with these issues.

In the past, a lot of development programmes have been focused on empowerment of the girl-child hence questions of exclusion of the men and the boys in these development programmes linger. If these goals are to be achieved, the need to cultivate respectful gender relationships cannot be ignored.

How then can development agents engage boys and men as partners in building respectful relationships for sustainable development?

Creating platforms for young men for meaningful engagement. In this regard, Reach a Hand Uganda a youth led sexual reproductive organization created a platform for the young and the old to confront these critical development issues.

From the dialogue, I gathered that there is an urgency to unlearn cultural beliefs that have for generations sown seeds of patriarchy, male chauvinism and gender stereotypes. An educated 20 something old man surprised me when he told me that a man who washes dishes and cooks at home is effeminate because it is not cultural that a man washes dishes when his wife or sisters are at home. “Is Female genital mutilation a good practice?” I asked. “No, it is not, it takes away the dignity of women.” He said. “So should it be upheld because it is cultural?”

In light of all these subtleties, candid conversations on masculinity are long over-due. Where do men learn to be men? Why is there a need for men to prove their masculinity through domination over women? Most often culture and religion teach that the man is the superior of the human specie and some men have been configured to these beliefs and as a result will treat women as second-class citizens. For instance, ssengas at bridal showers teach girls to pleasure men. These practices often cultivate a culture of silence and endorse male promiscuity ignoring the responsibility of men in relationships.

Men will have to embrace the notion of equity that embraces justice and fairness and to recognize that women’s rights are human rights.

It is also key that the development agents put into consideration the new forms of violence against women. Violence against women is thriving on social media. Women are purposefully embarrassed, stalked, sexually harassed and threatened online.

There is no option, the men will have to be involved, men will have to be taught about the gender biases how to the men will have to treat women the way they would have loved to have their sisters, daughters and mothers treated. There is no way around it.

This post first appeared on Prudence’s blog, Pru’s Notebook. It is republished here with permission.

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