The YAC participants aim to network with organisations that work specifically on masculinity and gender equality and with organisations who work on related topics like Gender-Based Violence, SRHR, HIV/AIDS to name a few. A first meeting was held recently, where we had invited YMCA members as well as other organisations that work with TM- related topics. Among the participants in the meeting was a representative from the organisation PADARE (or Men’s Forum on Gender) who are working on how men can contribute to the debate and actions on gender issues. They share information and knowledge on women’s rights and exchange experiences and progress in mobilising other men to participate in the movement for a gender just society. Their mission is strongly linked to the mission of the Transformative Masculinity Programme of “reaching gender equality and equity through young men playing a positive role in changing gender relations”.
The discussions of the meeting were fruitful and we identified some of the causes of the dominant masculinity in Zimbabwe to be rooted in culture, religion and the economic situation. Culturally, boys are raised to be tough and independent while girls primary socialisation is more protected. An example that most people can relate to is if a boy falls and get hurt he is told to get back up again and be tough, while a girl might be helped up again and comforted. In addition, women are prepared for a life as housewives while men are prepared for work outside the household. That is not to say that all men have jobs outside the house and all women take care of the house and children, but this is still a trend in many households here in Zimbabwe. We think is unfair to women as their workload is huge and the working hours are not limited. We also discussed how the practice of paying “lobola” (or bridal price) can contribute to male dominance by being used against females to get them to do “what is expected from them in the house”. The topic of religion was also discussed. It was identified that religious leaders most often are men, including fathers/pastors/priests. Another point mentioned is that religion teaches us that females should be submissive.
Finally, the issue of the economic situation in the country was discussed. As mentioned above, traditionally in Zimbabwe, men are thought to have jobs outside the household earning an income while women cover the work of maintaining the household and care for the children. Since men most often are the ones who earn a salary, this gives them power over women as many women depend on money from a man, whether their father, boyfriend, husband etc. When men have this financial power over women, we see that women stay in destructive relationships and they can be hesitant to report crimes committed by men they depend on.
This makes the economic situation a contributing factor to Gender-Based Violence. Women accepting bad treatment from her husband or boyfriend because she sees no other option but to stay in the relationship. In Zimbabwe, it is common for a man to have a wife and one or more additional girlfriends that he financially supports. These girlfriends may stay in the relationship even when knowing that their boyfriend is already married, just because he takes care of her financially. These are clear examples of situations where men have power over women in relationships and where women fail to find solutions to break these power inequalities and demand equality.
By identifying these root causes of this negative masculinity and finding methodologies for creating a positive masculinity where women are treated with dignity, respect and on the same terms as men; we can contribute to reaching gender equality. Together!
Source: Marte Steiro, Norwegian 2017 YAC Participant stationed in Harare, Zimbabwe