© D Berehulak – istock
time to redefine masculinity
have worked in Somalia for several years. There have been huge efforts to focus on the development of girls and women, and rightly so. Somalia’s maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world, women are rarely involved in political decision-making and violence is not uncommon. But after these years of working in Somalia I ask myself if this focus on women is enough to achieve gender equality? I don’t think so. Without understanding the Somali definition of masculinity we don’t stand a chance to reach equal opportunities for both men and women?
Yes, promoting gender equality from a women’s perspective is important, but alone it will not take us all the way. A wife could start working, but what happens when her husband feels inadequate and uses domestic violence to assert his authority? A woman could be appointed as a Minister (to fill a quota), but will men respect her decisions? Businesses are encouraged to employ more women, but what happens when only menial ‘feminine’ jobs are offered? We have to be careful of development symbolism. We have to support men if we are to advocate for a new gender-friendly policy climate. If Somalia is expected to expand its definition on what it means to be a woman, it is crucial we redefine what it means to be a man.