Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MALE gender activists: a conversation with David Makala

In several sessions throughout the day, I find myself in the room with the same person. Apparently my interests are similar to his... In the last session of the day, I sit next to him. I find out that he is called David Makala and that he is a Gender and Development Practitioner from Tanzania. One of the very few African men that I have seen at the CSW. In the room at this last session of the day, the atmosphere is tense… an activist vibe is detectible, especially when a lady stands up and shouts “Patriarchy has figured us [women’s activists and feminists] out!”. I wonder what this does to him, as a man, to be a women’s, or rather gender activist amongst so many women who seem to have a rather negative attitude towards men.

“Patriarchy is a monster, but we should not be afraid”

David tells me that there is no way, men can be successful without women, neither can women without men. “I come from a gender perspective, we need to tackle this monstrous Patriarchy together”, says David. “You know, poor men suffer just as much as women, patriarchy impacts girls and women, but also boys and men”. Therefore he believes that men should take greater part in important negotiations and discussions on gender equality such as during the CSW. Because, when men are not part of the equation, we will be going in circles and little structural progress will be made in reaching an improved position for girls and women in the world of today.

Girls-Boys Dialogue

I expected another session called Girls-Boys dialogue to respond exactly to that desire: putting both boys/men and girls/women into the equation. The session was particularly for youth under 18 and surprisingly the room was quickly filled. Where have all these youth been in the past few days? I quickly understand why I haven’t heard or seen them. None of the about 100 youth really stands out and guides the discussion. Girls are too shy and boys lean back. What can spur these youngsters to start a Third Wave of Feminism or should we rather call it ‘Genderism’?

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