OCTOBER 13, 2009: Women Empowerment-Men Are Interested

Women Empowerment-Men Are Interested


 A trident of gender legislation will be debated in Uganda's parliament in November: the Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Domestic Violence Bill and the Female Genital Mutilation Bill.

One of the voices expected to be heard backing the bills is that of a man: Chris Baryomunsi is the vice chairperson of the parliamentary committee on social services and well-known in Uganda for his defence of women's rights.

He argues that a paradigm shift is needed if gender equality and women's empowerment is to be achieved. In his view, the term "gender" was largely understood to mean women, excluding men from a movement for women's rights. Messages of gender equality, he says, must be packaged to convince men to become involved and participate in the changes.

Baryomunsi participated in a two-day workshop at the end of September intended to enlist men as partners to advocate for the proposed bills.

The workshop was organised by the Uganda Women's Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) in partnership with Uganda's ministry of gender, the United Nations Development Fund and the Norwegian government. Excerpts of his interview with IPS follow.

IPS: Why has there been so much male resistance to passing gender-related legislation in Uganda's Parliament?

CHRIS BARYOMUNSI: Our society, traditions and the environment have given a lot of powers to men compared to women, which to me is an injustice. And while these laws are trying to cure that injustice, men view it as part of their power going away.

As a natural reaction, they would oppose anything which is taking away their power.

 I think what is important is to package the whole issue in a manner that will convince men that we are trying to empower them so that we can remove these gaps and enjoy our human rights as individuals; not that they are intended to disempower men and empower women to the disadvantage of men.

But definitely, it is a question of tradition, the environment and society in which we live, where it has become socially acceptable that the man is more powerful than the woman.

For the full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/200910130711.html