Most people have the perception that gender equality revolves around issues pertaining to women’s equality. Such misconceptions have been the result of outdated norms, especially in African settings that have placed women behind men in almost every sphere of life. It is common behaviour among many African societies to see men disrespect women or even boys mistreat girls. Such attitudes towards women dignity always start at home.
Experts in gender equality issues propose that a change towards such behaviour should start at family level, where parents’ or guardian’s acts reflect gender equality. This way they will be sending a strong message to their children, both boys and girls to embrace gender equality.
Parents should allocate home undertakings to both children without separating specific tasks for boys and vice versa. Both should do gardening, house cleaning, cooking, washing clothes and dishes and other domestic chores. This will make boys view girls as capable of doing any task while girls will also gain confidence.
Dr. Rose Shayo from the University of Dar es Salaam supports such an arrangement. The expert in Gender Analysis and Development Economics, says students in secondary school have a great role to play in promoting gender equality both within and outside the learning contexts.
Speaking at a recent training session at Kibaha Boys Secondary School, Dr Rose urged students to embrace gender equality. “You should treat each other equally and fairly. Some students bully their fellows, some experience physical and psychological torture. You should treat each other in a good way and this should start from home at the family level,” she said.
“We are teaching you this because one day you will become parents and you will raise children in a manner that they respect one another as individuals and abandon outdated traditions that draw a difference between boys and girls,” she told some 400 male students at the gender awareness training organized by the Korean Non-Government Organisation – Global Together, aimed at supporting the attainment of gender equality and empowerment goals highlighted in Sustainable Development Goals.
According to Dr Rose, the national policies both on women and gender as well as on education and training require secondary schools to mainstream gender in their activities in order to create conducive teaching and learning environment.
Understanding gender issues is vitally important for students to embrace gender equality at home, schools and workplaces after they graduate. Dr. Rose says many people don’t know what gender equality entails. For her, what is happening in almost every sphere of life involve gender issues.
“We all live gender, if it is violence or discrimination, bad or hush language, relationship between ourselves and all what we do is gender. It is only that we don’t give meaning to whatever we do. We have not packaged it the way it is supposed to be,” she adds.
Being in school environment for so long, Dr. Rose says she learnt how students practice gender inequality without their awareness.
Giving examples, she says, it is very likely that during the course of playing a boy student would tell a girl student that she is not good at that particular sport without knowing that by saying so, it is a form of discrimination.
“The language they use to communicate to each other can bring about gender issues into question. Poor financial situation at family level can lead to exclusion of some students from some issues, without knowing that what they are doing is gender inequality,” she explains.
During the training session, students were asked to write down some of the treatments which they perceive not be fair.
Without exposing their names, students mentioned various issues including bullying, sexual harassment, use of abusive language and punishment.