Philia’s global discussion over the month of March was in regards to “Inviting Men as Allies to the discussion on Women Empowerment”.
Philia communities in Berlin, Paris, Hamburg, Istanbul and Kabul met to discuss how to let men in without losing ourselves. We asked ourselves: Can we do it alone or are we better together and how can men help in the fight for equality?
Empowerment: A gradual process
Gender inequality is a human rights issue. This issue affects both genders since they coexist and are interdependent. Therefore, only by finding a way together can we empower society as a whole and plant solidarity. Empowerment is a gradual process of visibility, conversations, dialogues, and recognition. It is not only about one gender. It aims at each and everyone to become stronger, more confident, and take control of their actions. How can we unlearn the story of injustice that has been told for centuries? We believe that women can connect through their own individual experiences that underpin their sense of the value of equality and justice and spread consciousness and information about missing values of societies.
Separation before coming together
Inviting men to empowerment conversations with women is often challenging because many women do not get enough space to express themselves when put in one group with men. Therefore, it helps when women get that valuable space to define first what their values, standards and boundaries are. Being in a trusted environment helps a lot. It is also important that women are aware of their emotions and thoughts and are mindful about how men have been affecting them. Women need to accept themselves first to be able to invite men to conversations on women empowerment and the fight against gender inequality.
While women are getting clear on what it is that they want, empowering themselves and other women, men need to work with each other to understand how they have been negatively affected by the inequality between the genders. When both are ready, they can collaborate and work together effectively. In the current patriarchy, men are in a position of power. Though, there are downsides for men as well. This is why it is important for them to work with women for a world of equality and solidarity.
Communicating about the pain we caused each other
Communication is key to finding common ground. It is alright to not be perfect, to make mistakes, and to have fears. But we need to talk about them. The first step to a healthy relationship is that both sides are conscious of themselves. Reflecting on ourselves, knowing our needs and boundaries, and communicating them in relationships will help our counterparts to become more aware as well and only then they will understand, accept and appreciate who we are. However, there are also times when we want to isolate ourselves and have some “me time” to find the clarity and space we need when we are feeling lost. When this happens we also need to be honest with ourselves and trust our instincts. Lastly, setting boundaries and goals can prevent us from getting lost, as we can use them as tools to keep focused on what we want and need.
Women empowerment needs to be contextualized
Context plays an essential role in bringing about change. Often it is the nature of human beings to show resistance to difference and change. Therefore, the change needs to be brought in according to the culture and context of different societies. Similarly, for gender inequalities to be addressed, the roots of the problems need to be addressed in a local context. For instance, there has been a backlash on western feminism in Afghanistan since this approach does not fit well in the current Afghan context. Therefore, it has not been as effective as it could have been. If small steps would have been taken and cultural and religious sensitivities were taken into account, it would not have been very challenging for feminism to flourish in Afghanistan.
In essence, for genders to be allies, we need to learn each other’s languages in order to understand each other. We need to come up with a common language of encouragement and understanding and implant it into the education system and socialization process.
In the upcoming meetups, the discussion will be on ‘Aloneness’. Stay tuned for our next post!
Text By Zakira Rasooli
Inputs by Kateryna, Geeti, Solveig, Grace, Waleska, Becky, Huizi and Caroline