Make boys feel part of the pursuit of gender equality

Image: STOCK IMAGE

Every day, my heart bleeds for the next generation of men.

Everywhere you look, almost everything is about girl children. I am very much aware of the imbalances we face politically, socially, economically and otherwise.

Some of the initiatives that are deliberately focusing on the girl child are completely necessary. For instance, there is a lack of sanitary towels for girls, especially in impoverished areas.

The safe spaces created for girls, who are victims of the different kinds of gender-based violences (GBVs), are also another exception.

However, how do we fully justify the exclusion of one sex (boys) which was the only gender "empowered" by a horrific apartheid system in fixing the problems created by our past?

Often when I listen to fellow civil right activists, humanitarians, feminists, academics, politicians (these ones bore me) and fellow youth, especially young women, their pain is piercing when they elaborate about how we live in an unjust and very much unequal world for men and women. The world has serious gender inequality issues.

Indeed women have been excluded in the past. This is something we really have to redress. We have to achieve and strive for gender equality in our lifetime.

But we shouldn't be working towards addressing the imbalances of the past by dressing another imbalance of the future.

The current approach baffles me. Some companies award bursaries to girls only. We deliberately or ignorantly prioritise the future of women and exclude the future men. In one way or another, we are reversing the system that destabilised us as a country and a continent by creating a future where men will be excluded.

Have we ever paused for a second and asked ourselves - what kind of future men are we creating with this intentional or ignorant exclusion? Is our goal really to flip the coin of history or apartheid? Is it not another form of gender inequality that we are engineering in our current approach?

Apartheid robbed women of opportunities, now it looks like democracy, in its attempt to fix the wrongs of the past, is doing precisely what was done by apartheid.

The children (both boys and girls) who are between the ages 0 - 20 are an opportunity for all of us as civil society, government and as corporate South Africa to ensure that no boy or girl is left behind. We have a tremendous opportunity to create equality between the two sexes and not leave anyone behind.

This is what I foresee if we are not philosophical but rhetorical about our approach in resolving these gender issues. When I talk about being philosophical about our approach, I mean we should devote our resources to study the fundamental nature of the existence, knowledge and reality of these gender inequality issues.

Yes, the girl children have been excluded in the past. Yes, we have serious gender inequality issues that are not just common to SA but the world at large. Yes, we need more girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

But what will we say to the next generation of men when they ask why they are or were excluded?

Will our answer be - we had to exclude you because women have been excluded in the past? Is that an adequate answer? I don't think so.

- Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. E-mail: kabelo03chabalala@gmail.com; Instagram, @kb_the_village_boy; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

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