Women across the globe have come a long way with the gender agenda, fighting tirelessly against social injustices that bred gender inequality; gender based violence and hindered the progression and empowerment of women. Today women are greatly empowered because of the blood sweat and tears of activists from yesteryears. Its only today that we witness the advent of women occupying powerful decision making positions, making choices regarding sexual reproductive health and being able to access services without having to seek the consent of their male counterparts. That’s why voter apathy among women is rather perplexing because for decades women fought for the right to vote.
Sadly, as women championed the gender equality agenda, the boy child was forgotten and rendered irrelevant somewhere along the line. Men were not empowered enough to deal and interact with the empowered independent woman. This at some point left a grey area leading to resistance and antagonism towards the woman of the new world. Men did not understand that women were no longer relegated to bearing children and working barefoot in the kitchen, but rather to putting on stilettos and power suits and making decisions in the board room. Young and vibrant Desmond Lunga, a 32 year old married father of three, saw this gap and decided to do something about it. He took the initiative to redress the plight of the boy child by starting a Non-Governmental Organization called “Men and Boys for Gender Inequality”. The organization primarily focuses on men and boys and is aimed at reducing gender based violence, gender inequality and the spread of HIV-AIDS.
The organization also deals with social aspects that affect men who have expecting partners. At Men and Boys for Gender Inequality, they are referred to as “expecting fathers.” This concept is still a tad bit elusive since it is the woman who is actually pregnant. The concept is part of the Men Care global campaign, which is basically aimed at teaching men how to treat their women throughout pregnancy and explaining that the changes that a woman goes through during pregnancy are not only physical but also emotional. The men are taught what to expect, like the weird cravings experienced by women during pregnancy. They are also coached on how to help with domestic chores around the house so as to make the pregnancy as comfortable as possible and how to help with the baby after delivery. Men and Boys for Gender Equality has also started a media campaign to engage various media houses so they can also come on board to educate men on issues surrounding fatherhood. Through this campaign the organization will be able to reach out to fathers across the country and make them aware of what it means to be a father. Most men are unaware of how far the laws of Botswana protect their rights as fathers regarding custody, adoption and child maintenance.
“Off the top of my head, I can recall a number of incidents that occurred here in Botswana to show that most men are not aware of their rights. For example there are men who pay child maintenance yet they are denied the right to see their children,” said Lunga.
It is the responsibility of Men and Boys for Gender Equality to guide men who seek their services through the steps┬áthat they need to follow in order to be a part of the child’s life. Lunga put emphasis on the need for the man to be interested in being a father before the law can take its course. He further posited that in the past social workers did not do enough for the father and left it to the mother to decide whether or not to allow the father into the child’s life. He said a lot of single fathers are also having a hard time raising their children by themselves. He gave an example of an incident where a father was unable to get passports for his children because his name did not appear on their birth certificates.
“They told him the children’s passports could not be processed without the mother’s consent,” said Lunga.
In another project the organization has identified 30 school going youth in villages surrounding Gaborone, who are now being trained on issues surrounding gender inequality. The objective is for the youth to later mobilize people and come up with community based initiatives that will further the mandate of the organization. In terms of policy and advocacy, the organisation is also part of a global network known as ‘Men Engaged.’ This network is a cluster of organizations with similar initiatives which basically deal with men issues. From ‘Men Engaged’ Botswana there is ‘Men Engaged Africa’ which brings on board different experiences from men across the continent, which is a part of ‘Men Engaged Global.’ Through this initiative, men are not only given a platform to discuss issues affecting them, but can also use it as a benchmarking tool using various experiences from men across the world to deal with their own problems.
In today’s world, women are no longer relegated to the background while their male counterparts rule the world. Through the of evolution of mankind, nowadays we find men doing the cooking and cleaning while the women go to work to sustain their families. So true is the saying: “Gone are the days when women used to cook and clean like their mothers, these days they just drink and smoke like their fathers.” It’s a joke, but it has a ring of truth to it.