By: PAT DIAL
Kaieteur News – In the Western World as well as the Islamic World, during the 19th and 20th centuries, society became increasingly conscious of the oppression and discrimination women suffered. Women were traditionally kept out of the power structure: they could not vote, could not serve in Parliaments or in Government Service. Women were paid less for doing the same jobs as men; they were denied education; the professions were accordingly closed to them; and they were often subjected to violence and could have little or no protection or redress from anyone.
As life became more civilized, it was realized that the ill-treatment of and discrimination against women retarded society and ultimately negatively affected everyone. It was also realized that once women were engaged in the world of work, society became more prosperous since women are efficient and oftentimes outperformed men in some areas.
By the beginning of the 20th century, in many countries, women were being freed from most of their oppressive restrictions and were beginning to benefit from full legal protection. Women and men were now accepted as equals in most parts of the world. And though there were still a few areas of discrimination against women remaining, women were now found in every field of activity, outperforming and sometimes outnumbering men, not only in academic performance but in other spheres. This freedom of women was welcomed by all, but then it took a sudden and unexpected turn.
It was discovered that men, especially in the developed countries, were becoming demoralized to a greater or lesser degree. Some men began to opt out of organized society, becoming drug addicts, leaving the workforce or having low productivity. They were becoming less ambitious to qualify themselves in the various trades and professions; in the schools, boys were performing less than girls. Many males did not attend school or dropped out, even at the university levels. Men began to have less care for their families, often abdicating their role of breadwinner, and engaging in domestic violence against their wives and children; sometimes even murdering them.
In the developed countries, as mentioned above, there appears to be far more awareness of the malady and there is a growing corpus of research, and efforts are being made to address it. In Guyana, President Dr Irfaan Ali is one of the very few who has thoroughly seized the problem and despite an extraordinarily busy schedule, was able last October, to establish a kind of guild known as MEN on MISSION (MoM) to begin to address the issue. This pioneering initiative of His Excellency is most timely.
In establishing MoM President Ali remarked that it was done “to tackle toxic masculinity and create a positive environment and safe space for men, promoting integrity, productivity, accountability and character building . . .” He then went on saying: “We men are now the root cause of many problems in society. It is now our time to be the root or solution; to be the root of positivity, to be the root that makes a difference, to be our root that builds a support system”. . . The core membership of MoM is personnel from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and it is expected that this core will be extended to include men of every background with chapters in other parts of the country.
MoM has been involved in a number of activities: They have rebuilt the houses of poor persons which had been destroyed by fire and constructed new houses to replace the shacks many of the very aged inhabited. They have been beautifying the environment by rebuilding broken down fences, painting modest homes and planting flowers.
MoM has begun to work with boys and also girls to get them back to school and into the learning environment. This necessitates coaching, mentoring and being in contact with parents. It has so far organized one regional boys camp to train 500 boys in a variety of skills so that they will grow up into positive individuals.
Men are poorly represented in the Teaching and Nursing professions and this could be mainly attributed to stereotyped gender roles. Efforts are being made to have more men inducted into these professions since such would be both a morale builder for men and would have long term social benefits.
To exorcise any underground resentment against women, MoM has been extending its activities as far as possible to underscore the equality of men and women and how they complement each other. This was exemplified at International Women’s Day 2023, when MoM together with the Guyana Police Force and some Regional Democratic Councils hosted luncheons for women across the country.
MoM is an imaginative attempt at preempting the neutralization of a social ailment before it becomes endemic.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kaieteur News.
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