Feminism: Empowering the woman, suffocating the man.
By Vitalis Oguttu
About a month ago today marked the end of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in the country. Governments, corporates, non-governmental organizations, and the media poured into an awareness campaign strongly opposed to gender-based violence against women and girls across the globe. Data from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2022 reported 34 per cent of women in Kenya experienced either physical or sexual abuse from their intimate partners.
The Kenyan government agreed to allocate USD 2.79 million in efforts to address the issue, with Gender and Public Service Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa recently reaffirming a zero-tolerance policy on violence against women and children in the country. But despite all the effort and financing funneled into GBV campaigns, one question remains unanswered. Who exactly speaks for the man?
In 2014 the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed that 4 per cent of men experienced sexual violence and at least 11 per cent of men in the country witnessed some level of violence from their intimate partners. Those figures have since increased to 7 and 20 per cent respectively, in sharp contrast to the incidences of violence against women in the country. In retrospect, one would argue that the cases of gender-based violence against women remained far much higher than those of men. Which would naturally explain why only one article that spoke to atrocities against men was published and barely a single documentary that aired took the angle.
Quite simply put, what the media fails to realize is that before you marry a widow you must first find out what killed the husband. The discussion on empowering the woman has over the past three decades dominated the agenda on the world stage. With consistent funding from liberal western economies to support women empowerment initiatives; African governments, corporate organizations and media have since taken to the agenda mostly on account of its profitability. However, the immediate result has been an upsurge of employment opportunities for women and increased representation within government. In fact, a survey conducted by Consumer Insight in 2015 revealed that Kenyan women earned 32pc more than their male counterparts working in the same professions.
It is no question therefore that the balance of the family in Kenyan households has been disrupted. Men have predominantly been the providers in the family in African society. But with more opportunities and a lot more financial freedom, an increasing majority of Kenyan men continue to find themselves in relationships where the woman has more money and therefore more leverage to pursue investment and personal interests. Feminist ideology having taken root further compounds the issue as more women in the country continue to abandon their traditional values and responsibilities. Such men, who are dependent on their women, are also likely to be economically, physically and even psychologically abused (Thobejane 2018).
With the exception of a few bizarre cases, very few men ever report cases of gender-based violence for fear of stigma and ridicule from the community. Furthermore, African culture had clearly defined gender roles in which the man was expected to be strong and a leader in his family and his community. Women were the caregivers and the very back bone of the African home. Crying let alone persistent complaint from a man about a woman was then and still is to date deemed a sign of weakness in many communities across the continent. Submission was loyalty as was loyalty submission.
But as the tide shifts so must the experienced sailor adjust his sails. There needs to be a deliberate and collaborative effort by men in the country to address issues affecting women and young girls in the country. Re-establishing the various avenues our cultures offered that prepared young men and women for marriage is just but one part of the solution. African governments and media need to reconstitute the ethos behind women empowerment initiatives to recognize the social responsibility of both genders.
Feminism started as a rallying call to women’s rights across the globe. But this has since morphed into a targeted campaign to “breakdown the patriarchy” and deconstruct the identity of the man. To date of the 365 days of the calendar more than one hundred international holidays are dedicated to issues affecting women apart from Father’s Day – that was formally recognized as a national holiday 58 years after Mother’s Day by former US President Richard Nixon in 1972 – and the international men’s day that was previously the International Toilet Day.
That gender-based violence against women is an issue of particular concern is no premise to blatantly ignore issues affecting men. Neither does it justify the concerted effort to effeminate the boy child in the name of parity. It is therefore imperative that African governments review both ethical and societal issues occasioned by the influence of feminist ideology and its relation to cases of domestic violence.
As the media we must begin to cautiously restructure both our editorial and advertising policies to accommodate African values that promote the cohesion of both genders.