PISA centers have become platforms where social, political and economic issues are tabled. The idea behind that is to have informed citizens. As expected, we partook in the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
We had discussions during our open sessions. It was during this time that different views were brought up and various emotions stirred. Some people were of the opinion that things are just fine. Some were of the idea that women and children were still having it very tough.
Below is a highlight of what came up coupled with my observations.
“The mechanism of violence is what destroys, controls women, diminishes women and keeps women in their so-called place.”
– Eve Ensler
During our discussions, the key issue was, “What’s your view and understanding of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence?” Most participants were men. Surprising, isn’t it? You’d expect more women to have shown more interest but obviously men wanted to say a thing or two.
Of the opinions that stood out one participant asked, “Who dis-empowered women in the first place?” That’s when the issue of patriarchy emanated. Many believed that it has, since its origin preferred men over women, subjecting women to abuse.
Those of the opinion that patriarchy placed women at a disadvantage, argued that policies pursuing equality must be put in place. So that in the long run, equal services and opportunities will be availed to both men and women.
The other remarkable opinion was, “Why empower only women: what of the abused men?” Some of the participants believed that some men suffer at the hands of women.
They strongly believed that the only reason such cases are not reported is the fear of being shamed. Being shamed or ridiculed by the authorities, because it’s something quite unnatural for a man to succumb at the hands of women. Abuse is known to be the other way round. Or at least suffered mostly by women under men.
But then again, let’s consider the following areas of special interest:
The issue of unemployment
Between men and women, it is commonplace to see hiring managers prefer men. It was argued that this in itself is a patriarchal remark. Patriarchy has shaped our world-views and because of that men are seen -without even thinking- as more capable.
For instance, some occupations were previously deemed as manly. Owing to such ideas they remain male-dominated even in the face of disturbingly high rates of unemployment. The understanding was that women suffer the most. They are hit hard by unemployment and a host of other unemployment-induced social problems.
Think of, for instance, the STEM occupations. Who are we likely to find? Is it because men and women are given varying degrees of attention at school? Is it because women prefer easy-to-understand and perhaps more softer social sciences and philosophies?
But then again, if education is the same why are STEM occupations male-dominated? Some people argued that, in the past such were considered fields to be pursued by men. So women even today are reluctant in pursuing STEM careers. Which further subjects them to deeper and wider unemployment gaps.
Some participants believed that preference in job-markets should be given to women, by way of curbing already high disparities between them and men.
The issues of hunger and starvation
In Lesotho, participants maintained that women and children are mostly at risk. Well I don’t want to argue with ideas raised up in this case. Most people argued that men, because already patriarchy discriminates against women, own wealth.
As wealth-owners, men exploit the sexuality of women. Children born from such affairs remain the sole responsibility of women. This violates the human rights of women, specially rights to social, economic and political freedoms.
The issue of politics
Interestingly, most participants argued against having a 50/50 proportion in parliaments. They out rightly scorned such aspirations. They believed women need a share in politics but not as co-equals with men.
But then again, I would say that ONLY competent individuals should run for office. Men or women if competent, should not be denied such an opportunity. We’ve got some brilliant and far-sighted women out there, why not use such to develop this nation?
Individually I think the issues of competence should be central in our judgments, on who should run for office in parliament.
Women are still very much unaware of the 16 Days of activism against Gender-Based Violence. There is a need to engange and educate even more women or similar issues. Civic education is a non-negotiable.