UN Women Special Representative to Liberia Marie Goreth Nizigama says one of the main reasons for the slow progress in achieving gender equality here is the failure to adequately raise the awareness and involvement of men and boys at all levels about their contribution to protect women and girls’ rights.
Speaking recently in Bong County at the “All Men’s Conference” held by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, she said gender equality cannot be achieved by women alone or by focusing exclusively on women.
Instead, she says gender equality concerns both women and men and any change in this area requires the involvement of men and boys as well as women and girls.
She until recently, ‘male-blindness’ in advocating for gender equality has been the norm, despite the fact gender refers to power relations between women and men.
She says the focus has been exclusively on empowering women through gender mainstreaming. As a result, she says “our efforts have failed to shake the patriarchal foundations of society for ensuring a gender equitable society.”
“I would like to emphasize that despite the challenges, the value of efforts to work with men and boys should be central to the promotion of gender equality,” Madam Nizigama suggests.
According to her, much of the discrimination that Liberian women face is directly linked to their relations with men in terms of access to resources and decision-making.
According to her, there are several examples where lacks of attention to men and boys have had grave consequences on women and girls. Madam Nizigama notes that while reproductive health facilities have improved, men control family decision-making.
She observes that giving women access to income-generating activities has led to backlash and has increased violence against women since men were not included in the change process.
According to Madam Nizigama, men felt that their roles as “family provider” and “head of household” were being undermined and that they were losing their control over their wives.
But she says addressing these constraints require a focus on men and boys and their relations with women and girls.
She warns that a ‘women-only’ approach to gender equality is insufficient to overturn the patriarchal structures and redress the gender imbalances at the grassroots level in any fundamental way.
As a result she says gender inequality persists with disastrous consequence for women and girls. This has prompted moves among development partners to ‘mainstream’ gender, in such a way that focuses on men and boys, she adds.
Madam Nizigama notes that they are treated as important actors to transform the unequal gender balance in society for reducing gender discrimination that cause women and girls to be violated.
The UN Women boss says statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection shows that in 2017, a total of 1,685 GBV cases were recorded.
97% of the survivors were women and girls, according to Madam Nizigama, adding that from January to March 2018, 462 GBV cases were documented with rape accounting for 61% of the total number of cases, an increase of 5% as compared for the 1st quarter of 2017. She said the perpetrators of this crime are men.
By Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong –Edited by Winston W. Parley