IN recent years, the issue of gender equity, a phenomenon as old as the human society itself, has taken a center stage in the global consciousness. It has been attracting new ideologies and a new generation of leaders and advocates. The discourse has gained international recognition owing to social movements such as feminism, women’s liberation movements and voices for gender equality, among others. However, while the attention this discourse has received so far is positive, it seems that it has been streamlined to revolve around women only. Put differently, women voices ring louder and clearer, as if those of men are not any important. It is on this note that this essay attempts to examine the idea of gender equity and more importantly, discuss the roles of men and women in the implementation of gender equity in the human society.
Generally, the term ‘gender’ refers to the roles or characteristics that a society attributes to people. It also refers to the economic, sociopolitical and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female. These attributes are not necessarily fixed but are ascribed, taught and learnt through the socialisation process. However, the issue of gender has become very stereotypical, such that, in most cases, it has led to the exploitation, degradation and marginalisation of women. In a bid to overcome these concerns, advocates of women liberation and emancipation began to highlight issues associated with gender stereotypes and hence, began to advocate for gender equity and equal opportunities and power relations. Thus, gender equity can be seen as a form of struggle against the exploitation, marginalisation and denigration of women as well as the fight for equal rights, responsibilities, opportunities, status and conditions for men and women.
Gender equity, which refers to fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs, may include the equal treatment of men and women or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. It is the process of allocating rights, resources, programmes and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of sex and addressing any imbalance in the benefits available to both males and females. The question then is: how can we (male and female) achieve gender equity? Are there any specific roles that men and women need to play in the achievement and implementation of gender equity?
First, there is a need for men and women to understand that the advancement and achievement of gender equity is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women’s issue. This simply suggests that ‘gender equity’ is a societal responsibility or obligation that should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Thus, male inclusion in gender related issues increases men’s responsibility for change and renegotiation of gender relations. Secondly, there is a need for radical change in many men’s attitude and behaviour in order for gender equity to be achieved because many men participate in sexist practices and the maintenance of unjust gender relations such that patterns of gender injustice are tied to social constructions of masculinity and male identity. Most times, men control the resources required to implement women’s claim to equity, but then if men begin to see that gender equity does not necessarily connote competition but justice and that justice is a prerequisite for a stable and viable society, they would not hesitate to join in the struggle.
Thus, fostering gender equity requires change in men’s practices and identities, men’s participation in complex and diverse gender relations and masculine discourses and culture.
And most importantly, according to Michael Flood, men and women should adopt integrated gender policies which address the power relations between them rather than separate and parallel gender policies. Gender equity should be seen as a work that requires partnership between the men and women. Partnerships with women will enable men to learn from existing efforts and scholarship and will also reflect a powerful and practical demonstration of men’s and women’s shared interest in democratic and peaceful gender relations. As mentioned earlier, women have been actively advocating for gender equity through education, global marches, media campaigns, feminism, seminars, among other things. However, there is also the need for women to accept the fact that involving men in their struggle will not in any way diminish their cause. Hence, women also need to partner with men towards the achievement of a just society. In conclusion, it is our salient responsibility to build a world where justice, equity and fairness will bring benefit to both men and women. However, this can only happen if and only if there is a change in our attitudes, a reconstruction of gender relations between men and women and our shared commitment and involvement in advocating gender equity.
- Oduola writes in via firstname.lastname@example.org