Source: | Nimatu Ibrahim, Ghana

Growing up, my father would say, “You! Nima, you are for your mum, and your brother, Rawuf, is for me.”

During this period, I thought it was because I was the wild and loud daughter while my brother was the nerdy and laid back son. It was not until I passed my Senior High School entrance exams with distinction that I came to realize that my dad, for all these years, had been thinking that I could not perform well academically, as my brother because I was a female. I then understood his apathetic attitude towards my basic education. Now he tells his friends to pay equal attention to the educational needs of their daughters just as they would their sons. Since then, all my half-sisters have been encouraged to take school seriously. Recently, one completed her teacher training education and is now a fully trained teacher. Sadly, this cannot be said of my older sisters whose only focus were continuing the family trade, farming.

This small narrative is to relate how the active involvement of men in the quest for gender balance could accelerate the process, and change the perception of their fellow men who are set in their patriarchal ways.

My mum and step mums were doing their best to support us, but we all saw the transformation when my father finally came on board. As my Political Science Professor, Prof. Ransford Gyampo said “half of the world’s population is female so down playing their role in development and rendering them to the background is like a bird trying to fly with one wing.” Feminism is not feminine, neither is it masculine. Thus anyone, irrespective of their sex can buy into it.

However, it is understandable that it is never easy for a “slave master” to be at the forefront of the emancipation of his “slave”. It will mean the end to the power and authority that he has over the said “slave”, especially if he is told that the “slave” in question could possibly outperform him one day. WOAH! That will be shocking! And the natural instinct will be to repel the idea of granting this needed freedom.

From this analogy, it is not surprising that women empowerment and gender equality are perceived by some men as a form of women movement that seeks to overpower their female counterparts and feminism as an “anti-men” women society.

But that is not the case; like the one-winged bird mentioned above, women empowerment, contrary to some beliefs, is societal empowerment. It is a way of helping women to help men, by giving them (women) or providing the dumbbells to build the muscles to enable them join hands with the men to lift the burden of stagnant social development. It is the process of equipping half of the world with the requisite knowledge and by extension wisdom, to help combat the albatross of social decay. It is not a competition of the sexes to see which sex out do the other. It is a race whose ultimate winner is the world, in which the trophy of social change and development belongs to all.

In the quest for gender balance, I believe it will do the world a lot of good if all men are educated to shift from the periphery of women empowerment to the center of it. Just as underdevelopment cannot be defeated without the female half of the world, likewise, women empowerment cannot be fully realized if most of the male half of the world withhold their contribution or if they are left out. This will send us back to the hypothetical bird trying to fly with one wing.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme could not have fit any better, “Balance for Better.” Yes, one half leading or doing all the advocacy is good but it is the joint effort of both halves of the world that guarantees the best result. As rightly said by Ann Cotton, the founder and president of CAMFED, Campaign for Female Education, “if you educate a girl, everything changes.” Like my father is now doing, let us all, regardless of gender, join hands to develop the defunct wing of society so that we can fly and soar higher.

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