Botswana will join the whole world for the first time to celebrate the International Men’s Day [IMD] on November 19, some 14 years after the day was inaugurated in Trinidad and Tobago after being proposed by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh.
International Men’s Day is not based on the assumption of a gender war. Although the objectives of IMD occasionally intersect with those of International Women Day (IWD), such as advocating equality between the sexes, it is primarily concerned with celebrating positive male role models and other issues unique to men’s and boys’ experiences.
Gorata Mighty Ntshwabi, an officer in the Labour and Home Affair’s Department of Gender, attributes the delay in the day’s inauguration to the fact that when it was first inaugurated in 1999 Botswana’s focus was on women’s empowerment. Gender inequality generally had a negative impact on women.
Her sentiments are in a way backed by the day’s concept note compiled by her Department, which indicates that the need to commemorate this day emanates from the fact that gender equality has long been synonymous with women and their struggle for economic independence, equal pay, and equal power. It however is about both men and women.
According to the concept note, the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs and the Gender Affairs Department who are proponents of gender equality has adopted the gender and development approach.
The Department has developed a draft Gender and Development (GAD) Policy anchored on a human rights foundation. It recognises that gender related rights are human rights. Addressing them in isolation is unlikely to yield the desired gender outcomes.
The objectives of the day are: to recognise and celebrate achievements and contributions of men in communities and families; to inspire a new generation of men and boys to develop self worth and a desire to participate in the building of better relationships and societies ; to foster the role of fathers in the care of their children; to promote gender equality and highlight positive male role models as an alternative to negative male stereotyping; to promote gender relations; to promote men’s and boy’s health as well as promote basic humanitarian values.
The department notes that people all over the world are used to relating men as protectors and providers, but do not often consider the actions that they can take to protect men and boys from harm and provide them with a safe world where they can thrive and prosper.
Providing safety also means being aware that particular groups of men and boys are less safe than others because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, or for other reasons. Care must be taken, whether in a campaign, educational activity, or legal reform, to recognize that, like women and girls, males are not a homogeneous group. The process of creating safety must take into account the specific barriers, obstacles, and even threats that some men experience.
On issues of masculinities the department finds them impacting negatively on men. They differ from one man to another. Meaning some men can be aggressive while others are subordinate
“Masculinity is not a biological characteristic, which is static; it can be challenged and changed. Masculinity manifest in different in terms of crime, drug and substance abuse, bullying, excessive drinking, low achievement, drop out and minor theft,” says the write-up.
The static masculinity associated with men statistics indicate that they are more likely to commit more crime than women. For example, in 2002, 80 percent of known offenders (481,000+) were men.
“Violence has a major impact on men and boys all over the world and yet very little is known about its prevalence. For instance, the actual number of men who are victims of gender- based violence in Botswana is not known,” says the department.
International literature shows that in every 100 domestic violence situations, approximately 40 cases involve violence by women against men. Yet while there are now a number of deserved global campaigns to tackle violence against women and girls, there are no such campaigns to help men and boys.
Though statistics show that a higher percentage of women than men are victims of gender based violence, many experts believe that the estimates of gender based violence experienced by men are likely to understate the true scale of the problem, perhaps because men are less likely to report their experiences and because it is surrounded by stigma and myths which has resulted in many men suffering in silence.
The international theme of the IMD is “Keeping Men and Boys Safe” while the localised theme is “Creating a Safe Environment for All: Men as Role Models”.