17 Dec



By Wanjala Wafula

During the 50th independence anniversary celebrations in Kenya, one insolent speaker took the archaic line of undermining women and other men who were not directly involved in the confrontations with the colonialists. He hailed the male freedom fighters without even giving credit to thousands of women who prepared food, hide the fighters and carried ammunitions for the fighters. The saddest thing is that all the dignitaries’ including twelve presidents and thousands of other high profile guests cheered him on.

I took to the social media to protest and in about an hour, over two thousand tweets supporting me had come through. I totally refuse to accept and be part of this pervasive perception of men having undue social and economic power. I will forever stand up against the falsehoods propagated by those not aware of the burden of negative socialization that is driving millions of men and boys into self annihilation across the globe.  I submit in this piece that men and boys are truly deprived in numerous ways.

I have vehemently insisted in the many pieces I have written on this subject that both women and men have the power only that they do not know they do and even if they do, they do not know how to use it. Defined in its rudimentary form, power means control over one’s life. If this be the accepted definition, then neither women nor men had power in the past as women’s role was to raise children against all odds, provide food for the family and literally be a slave to the man and his friends and family. On the same note; men’s role was to go to war with enemies imagined or real, acquire wealth through all means, live a care free sexual life and practice customs and traditions that exposed him to all the dangers. I submit therefore that neither women nor men had the real power they were socialized to envisage.  I affirm that Men’s blunder is their pretense of imagined might whereas women’s vitality is their veneer of weakness driven by negative socialization and maintained through negative masculinity, patriarchy, cultures, traditions and practices.

The egocentrism that continues to dominate the gender debate is only to the detriment of the men and the boys. While men and boys continue to bare the yoke of assumed manhood, millions of girls and women across the African continent are being re-socialized to balance continued existence with individual and collective fulfillment.  They are replacing the long held perceptions and socialization processes with the gusto to excel and succeed. They are beating the men at their own game yet our efforts to wake-up men from the darkness they continue being put by the negative socialization are met with ridicule and scorn. No one is socializing boys to become men of substance who pursue individual and collective goodwill. The few of us trying to break the ice are scoffed at by both women and men. I dare say that boys and men will soon be decades behind girls and women psychologically and socially. I even predict that in the next decade, men will be gradually more behind women academically and economically. If you doubt my prediction then I invite you to take a flight under the captain-ship of proficient Sophia Rita of Kenya Airways.

I do not want to sound like a doomsday prophet for the male gender of which I am. 
I believe in a world where all people, women and men, boys and girls find value in what I have always
called gender coexistence. I believe in a world where we all find value in things that make each of us
better than a world where we step in the way of others simply because we were socialized to do so.
I detest women’s movements that heap blame on all men or a men's movement blaming all women for their
woes. I have for years now been preaching a gospel to men and boys. I have urged them not to be silent
bystanders. I continue to tell them that when they see an incident taking place, on a bus, or in public,
they should never ignore it. This is my pledge for which I live.

I have always been an advocate of what I have always called a gender evolution movement. I characterize a gender evolution movement as one that promotes a switch from the rigid roles of our past to more elastic roles for the future. I see the gender evolution characterized by a generation of men and women who are imbued with the power to undertake and foster blissful, improved, cruelty-free relationships. I have seen former perpetrators of violence against children, women and even fellow men transform into persons who treat others with the decorum they deserve. I have seen them play a key role in raising children and I have also seen them compliment roles with their spouses. I know the gender evolution is possible.

I join my friends at the gender violence prevention network in advocating for sustained understanding and dialoguing among partners. I encourage all people around the world to listen to their partners. I request them to have a conversation about what they want in their relationships or family. I besiege them to question the power imbalances in their relationships and share their problems together. I strongly encourage them to value sons and daughters equally as all children are bestowed with diverse talents and endowments.

I insist that we all have the power to stop gender based violence. If it were a malady, we could easily call it a pandemic. If it were an oil leak, we’d identify it as a catastrophe. If it was an economic  meltdown  it  would  be  a  presidential  election  pledge. But  it  is happening  to  women  and  even  men,  and  it’s  just  an everyday  affair  being  treated  with  all  the casualness.  It is called gender based violence and it manifests itself in numerous forms and    cuts across    all    social,    academic, economic,    racial    and linguistic demographics. It is rape at home and on dates. It is the beating or the blow that one out of four African women receives in her lifetime. It is the perennial sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young and old.  It is  murder  that  is  swiftly swept  under  the  carpet  or  the  depravity  that women  and  other minority  groups  face.  It is founded on masculine constructions and guarded by rigid and obsolete cultures and traditions.

GBV has far reaching consequences for women, men, families and communities, including increase in HIV infection, physical and emotional suffering, negative impacts on children, weaker families and communities and economic costs that hinder development and decrease our ability to fulfill our potential as individuals and communities. In my fifteen years of activism and advocacy, I have never felt as much hope as I do today. Men and women are taking action together. The world is paying attention. We are all saying enough is enough. Those who ignore this force, do so at their own detriment

When we balance power in our relationships we can prevent violence against women and girls. We can transform our own lives and our communities when we redefine power positively and change the ways in which we relate with others. I know we all have power but how are you using yours?


The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  of  The  Coexist  Initiative,  a  not  for  profit  synergy  of  men  and  boys community‐based  organizations  committed  to  eliminating  all  forms  of  Gender  based  violence  in  Kenya. Visit    http://www.coexistkenya.com    or    email    Wafula@coexistkenya.com‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype: coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254712653322


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