What role do men have in women’s empowerment?
by Margaret Ikiara, Founder and Director Community Initiatives for Rural Development (CIFORD) Kenya
CIFORD is one of SIA’s grassroots grant partners. We have supported initiatives to provide alternative rites of passage to girls and to train boys and girls in their rights. (Read more about CIFORD here and here.)
In Meru County in Kenya, women’s and girls’ empowerment is one of our major challenges. Meru is a county where male chauvinism has been ‘roaring.’ Women are not allowed to own property, should not question a man, and are left to do all the work in the farm while men enjoy their morning breeze with fellow men discussing ‘community matters.’ Also, many girls still undergo Female Genital Mutilation to be considered a grown woman.
With these issues, empowering women has been a major challenge for the past decades. CIFORD Kenya, a community-based organization, realized that empowering women was becoming tough without bringing men on board. To date, CIFORD has been able to change the game in women’s empowerment, even with few finances.
By involving men in different projects, including agricultural activities, they have understood the importance of assisting in farm work and togetherness with the women to bring food on the table. Our male participants say that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ has been the major driving unit for the families.
Joseph and Penina Ayemo are part of the Inua Maishu (‘Uplifting Life’) Group. Together they are starting a kitchen garden and nursery beds. Joseph says, “My wife doesn’t have to go to the kiosk to buy vegetables. Now we have enough here in our garden.”
Encouraging men to be involved in activities thought to be in the women’s realm, such as agriculture, family planning and disease control and prevention, has been a major boost to the community and the organization.
Kailikia tends to his onions. “I no longer wake up early to go to the marketplace, which I thought was normal after seeing my father do it. Instead, I accompany my wife to the farm to help her.”
Farming Together to Improve Relationships
Kailikia, a member of Inua Maisha Group (a neighborhood peer group, organized by CIFORD), is proud of the changes he has made. “I no longer wake up early to go to the marketplace, which I thought was normal after seeing my father do it. Instead, I accompany my wife to the farm to help her. She used to work the whole day in the farm but when we are together we work for a half a day! This gives her more time to rest and focus on the household duties and caring for our children, which we also share. As she prepares food I can be in the farm fetching feed for the animals. This has greatly improved our relationship.”
Thank you for helping supporting CIFORD to be a game changer in the society. With your support we can involve more men in women’s empowerment by having them help the women.