Sitting down at the quaint table in a small, hot, TV-noise filled room, my wife and I were eating an amazing bowl of seafood soup. I’m not a seafood fan, but somehow the Nicaraguan woman who took my wife in for our first 3 months of training for our Peace Corps service made this soup taste amazing. Every bite was fantastic. When we finished, we both sat back with full stomachs. Our host proceeded to ask Caressa to clear the table, and beating her to the task I stood up, grabbed both dishes, took them over to the sink and began washing. The host nudged me out of the way and said, “I’ll do that.” The next day Caressa cleared the table washed the dishes and nothing was said. Later, when walking down the street, a group of youth boys shouted as Caressa walked passed them, “Oh baby, goodbye” in a provocative way, and whistled until my staring back silenced them. The catcalls are even worse when she walks alone.
While gender equality should be viewed as essential to life, evidence from the world shouts that men hold a higher rank to women. While catcalls and doing dishes seem harmless, they only skim the surface of the greater issue, that men do not respect women equally and women allow this divide to persist.
For the last 20 years, the world has made advances on the issue of gender inequality through women’s empowerment programs. With a whole generation that has grown up with this mantra, we can see there has been progress, but sadly severe prejudice persists, evidenced by continuous domestic violence and gender discrimination in the workplace. The questions now are, “What is the problem? Why has it not worked like we wanted?”
Gender inequality has been addressed from the perspective that it is a women’s issue. The work therefore has been aimed at addressing the outcome of a deep seeded issue, instead of its source. It’s time to start addressing the root of the problem.
While some would argue that gender equality is a humanity issue (and I agree to) we would like to push it further and declare it as more of a men’s issue. It is one thing to say ‘women need to be empowered’ to the level of men, but the other side of that perspective is that men need to be humbled. In order for women to gain authority and power, someone has to cede it. When people are asked to relinquish power, those asked to share it fight back. While many might not fight directly, they still fight strongly by being indifferent or ignorant. While this concept seems to be obvious, only recently have movements begun to recognize the key role men play in promoting gender equality.
The best method of stopping inequality and violence is not reeducation—it’s prevention. This is where the solution comes in, to train the future generations that gender equality is the standard. It is here that my Peace Corps service converges. To address this issue evidenced every time Caressa and I walk down the street, we have collaborated to create a youth boys camp. Camp CHACA focuses on teaching youth boys the importance of gender equality. The boys gain information adapted from the Program H model (a curriculum promoting equality, domestic violence reduction, and positive communication skills in youth boys) to equip them with the skills to be positive role models, gender equality advocates, and change agents in their communities.
Please be a part of the change and collaborate with us!
– Tim, HE 63