Celebrating Males and Positive Masculinities

Every year on 8th March, the world over commemorates International Women’s day. This day is not just to celebrate women but to take stock of women and girls’ economic, social and political transformations in society and pave a way forward on how to hasten gender equality and women’s empowerment for sustainable development (SDGs) particularly Goal 5 on gender equality, using available mechanisms including policies and programs.

As the country celebrated women’s day, the School of Women and Gender Studies with support from the Embassy of Sweden was conducting a series of activities including dialogues, panel discussions, debates and paper presentations on women’s achievements, opportunities and challenges in what we called the Gender Identity Week 2018. Activities run from 5th March to 10th March 2018 and these were hinged on the theme: “Transformations for Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Opportunities and Challenges.” This time round, the School chose to celebrate male champions who have disregarded the patriarchal nature of society and taken the mantle to front and advocate for women’s rights under the theme: “Positive Masculinities.”

One might wonder why women would choose to celebrate males and masculinity considering they are the custodians of gender inequalities in society.

Efforts across national and local government, civil society, and the private sector have acknowledged the need to put a clear and intentional focus on the involvement of men in gender equality intended programs. It has been acknowledged that for effective and lasting women and girls’ empowerment, there is need to involve men because they are fundamental in women’s and girls’ lives. 

Role Model’s Views 

A panel to discuss positive masculinities which included Ms. Pamela Angwech, Director, GWED-Gulu, Mr. Mubarak Mabuya, SURGE, Hon. Alex Ruhunda, MP, Fort portal Municipality, Prof. Ben Twinomugisha, School of Law, Makerere University and Mr. Peter Igaga, NTV Men noted that we are not involving men enough and therefore called on men to become more active in women’s empowerment campaigns for gender equality. 

According to Ms. Pamela Angwech Judith, positive masculinities refer to positive traits and practices that don't abuse or violate rights such as sexual and gender based violence. She noted that her understanding of masculinities is associated with manhood, manliness and behaviors that are associated with men either in positive or toxic ways. Pamela further shared that she started engaging men in women empowerment campaigns upon realizing that they were feeling inferior for having lost their traditional male roles and failed to provide for their families. Their involvement has since created an enabling environment for practicing positive masculinities within the Gulu community.

Men have since regained their self-esteem, they are involved in activism, and are in position to advocate for reproductive rights for their spouses, support their spouses’ access and ownership to property, improved marital relationships, and reduced cases of violence against women. She however noted that we must utilize men effectively if we are to realize equitable gender equality. 

On gender equality within relationships, Hon. Alex Ruhunda explained that to guarantee a successful mission on any task, one must ensure their partner has an equal sense of ownership. “In my family, I ensure property is written in both my wife’s and my names. Regarding financial issues, my wife is the financial controller and she has the final say on our finances and expenditures,” he recounted. “When someone knows that they are a stakeholder, they do their best,” he noted. Hon. Ruhunda called upon men to support their partners to be economically empowered and allow them access and have ownership to resources. 

“We need more men to champion gender equality,” Mr. Mubarak Mabuya reaffirmed. He advised parents to raise children in free stereo type environments and allow them take on any opportunities without limitations. Mr. Mubarak noted that he is currently working on ensuring every government ministry produces a gendered budget short of which, the budget is not presented to parliament for discussion and approval. He further noted that he is working with ministries, sectors and CSOs to internalize issues of gender inequalities and women’s empowerment during planning and budgeting processes. 

Peter Igaga discouraged men from looking at women as threats but as people who are struggling to have an equal footing with the men in terms of equal access to resources and opportunities. “Men too are weak and timid but they have to wear a male mask as per society expectations. They therefore have to act tough, authoritative, strong, aggressive, and tolerant and like they have everything under control. Hence they cannot be themselves or give full expression of their emotions because they are trapped by the masks they wear,” noted Peter Igaga. Peter advised men to come out of their masks and declare their fears because they too need help. 

Brett and Kate McKay, 2017 in their piece why we should celebrate the masks of masculinity, note that men are trapped by the masks they wear, and these masks are not only metaphorically and literally killing them, they create a “toxic masculinity” that wreaks havoc on society. If men would take off their masks, this line of thinking goes, they would not only individually find more success and happiness, but the whole world would benefit as well. Men should embrace feminism because patriarchy holds then back as well as women. Women and men should want to be liberated from the male “stereotypes” that keep them trapped.

The main efforts being exerted by women are to liberate themselves from oppression, discrimination, and work to have properties under their command, have political, social and economic freedom and change their life standards. Women can be successful when they get support and acceptance from the population for any activity they do and they can attain their goals if they get help and support from males, females, and the community at large. 

Positive masculinities are a transformation process in Uganda therefore; we need to allow our society to progress from patriarchy to equality.