Complete elimination of systematic gender discrimination needs the active involvement of people of all genders. Gender discrimination should not be looked at ONLY as women’s problem. Like many other Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations , gender equality 2030 is also an issue of human rights and humanity.
As we acknowledge the fact that ALL of us have some role in promoting gender equality, we should also be more aware of the gender based issues which exist in every society and how to reduce them.
Men and boys should work as allies with women and girls in creating an equal and peaceful society.
I urge all men and boys to please wake up and take a step forward, however small it may be, to end gender discrimination from your personal life or community. Remember, You too have a huge responsibility to ensure that your daughters, sisters, and mothers live in a safer and equal society. Please ensure that your loved ones are not victims of any harmful social practice of the patriarchal society.
But I also accept the fact that fighting against gender discrimination could be quite challenging for men and boys, depending on one’s social and cultural background. I have tried to outline below a step by step guide for men and boys to be a change agent in promoting women empowerment and eliminating systematic gender discrimination from society –
1. Understand the issue
Spend some time in reading and understanding gender based issues in global as well as your local context . Do your own research to be aware about the pressing concerns over gender inequality and how it can affect the growth and economic development of societies.
Achieving Gender Equality by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. You can read about many valuable resources, facts, programs and campaigns undertaken by the UN and its different funds.
Along with knowing the gender equality issues on global context, you can read or refer to some very useful books to understand why women’s issues are so important and how to tackle some issues as a man or boy-
2. Look around yourself
Look around you, your family members and surroundings to find out any signs of gender-based bias and discrimination. Do you and your partner, your mother and father, brother and sister, son and daughter enjoy the same rights, privileges, opportunities in their every day lives towards pursuing their career goals, education, expressing their social and political views or leading their lives the way they want? If not, then do you think their ‘gender’ has a role to play in it?
3. Challenge your own thoughts
There are many social and cultural customs which oppress women and violets their rights. They may exist in your life for years but you may not even be ready to accept that they are harmful. Challenge your own thoughts. Success in eliminating gender inequality lies to a great extent in accepting the fact that it exists in each of our lives, in each and every family and household, sometimes in a rather subtle way.
4. Identify the areas you want to bring changes
You might or might not have an active role in promoting gender discrimination, but you would most likely have some passive involvement in that. Ask yourself where you could be most effective in bringing changes, what you can and can not do to eliminate these gender-based biases which are currently existing in your life or in the lives of people around you.
5. Set up a personal goal and support system
Define your short and long-term goals. Decide the causes which you strongly support and the changes which you want to bring. Once you know that, outline a plan about how you can achieve your goals. You can start with some small goals in your personal life or in your family. And as a long-term goal, you can think of educating community members about gender discrimination, or spreading awareness in your community about it, or being an advocate for gender equality and women empowerment.
Use internet to access and communicate with people and groups who are working in this field. HeForShe is United Nation’s Online Global Solidarity Movement for men to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible and united force for gender equality. They help and support men to take tangible actions.
Men, Boys and Gender Equality is building an openly accessible basis of evidence and lessons for working with boys and men to promote gender equality, by gathering, inter-relating, analyzing and strategically disseminating evidence and lessons in targeted and accessible formats for improved learning, policy and practice. They have excellent evidence, case studies, tools and guidance for men fighting for women’s rights and equality.
6. Get started
The right time to start is NOW. Don’t sit and wait with the hope of the perfect opportunities to come your way. Start with small goals like setting aside money for your daughter’s higher education or encouraging your wife to be economically independent. Try to ensure the rights and equality of women in your family first. You can also volunteer for organizations working for women’s rights and equality or be the part of any online community working for the same.
7. Consider stepping out of your comfort zone
If you have never done something similar before, it may be quite uncomfortable for you to talk about these issues, or even bringing changes in your own life or in your family. For example, if you are a parent who always taught your daughter to wear a certain type of dresses, or to behave in a certain way to ensure her safety, but never thought of educating your son to treat women with respect, or not to objectify women or to assault them. You might find it extremely awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning if you try to talk to your son about these issues. It is very pivotal to step out of your comfort zone when are a change maker.
8. Be prepared for obstacles and disappointments
Be prepared to face lots of obstacles from people around you. Remember, all changes at the beginning, are dealt with a lot of resistance by our society. You may feel, your efforts are not taking you anywhere, please don’t get de-motivated when you face criticism, resistance or opposition. You may need to remind yourself very often about the higher purpose you are working for. It is also very important for you to have the access of like minded people who are working for the similar cause so that you can motivate and support each other.
9. Be a Role Model
Try to Influence everybody around you. Share your story. Set an example. Be a role model. Present yourself in your home, school, college, workplace, or community as an advocate of gender equality. This will help you to create your own identity as a change maker. You alone may not be able change everything, but can influence many people to think out of the box and to take actions.
You may also like to read You Too and Eliminate Gender Discrimination by Building Self Awarenessaimed to encourage and support men and boys to fight for a gender equal world.