Male Allies Call for the Dismantling of Patriarchal Norms & Practices

In Africa, patriarchal attitudes and behaviours continue to be normalized and reinforced in different social and cultural spheres. For decades, feminists have been challenging male allies and other men in Africa to interrogate their own power and privileges beyond mere pronouncements and pledges for gender equality, that do not challenge male dominance, gender-based inequalities and normalized women’s and girls abuse and exploitation.

Speaking during the Regional Men to Men convening held in Nairobi Kenya from the 11th to 14th October 2023, Benjamin Mugambi, the incumbent deputy secretary general of Njuri Ncheke council for Ameru elders said, “Men cannot sit back and allow women and girls to be oppressed.”

“When gender is overlooked, humanity is threatened,” added Mugambi, ” It is vitally important for men to come together and be part of various sensitization and capacity enhancement activities to end violence against women and girls.”

Mugambi reiterated that, “men too have a responsibility to promote and protect the rights of the girl child at all costs.”

Additionally, Reverend Fridah Kaimuri Meru County said, “We need to engage men in gender equality initiatives because in most of our societies men are the visible cultural and religious leaders that society has normalized”.

She insisted that men must publicly disown oppressive forms of oppression and promote, inspire, and support policy development in favour of equality between women and men.

Retrospectively, Chisi Marcel from the Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN- Malawi),  noted, “men should be able to adopt liberative, progressive, redemptive, transformative and positive models of masculinities that do not recreate the negative patriarchal notions. African men and boys have internalized negative masculinity beliefs and social behavoirs, which they need to keep challenging each other to abandon”.

While sharing the experiences of how men are engaged in gender equality and positive transformation, Marcel emphasized, “real men don’t abuse women and men of quality are not afraid of equality.”

Notably, some men are shifting from the yester norms of patriarchy and are now embracing gender just principles and ethos, however, much still needs to be done, especially to reform cultural and religious, practices, systems and structures in different communities.

According to Philip Nywakwana, the Executive Director of Movement of Men Against AIDs in Kenya “men should use their capacities to dismantle archaic cultural norms that inhibit the well-being of the girl child and women in their communities such as female genital mutilation, child marriage and domestic violence”.

Nyakwana also noted that African men and boys must mobilize themselves and challenge each other to end violence against women and girls and all forms of discrimination and exploitation.

Since 2003, FEMNET has been collaborating with diverse community partners, including religious and cultural leaders, and male allies, challenging them to reflect, be self-aware and contribute to challenging deeply rooted cultural and religious practices and ideologies for a just, inclusive, violence-free, equitable and transformative African society.

This article has been co-created by Imali Ngusale; and Anyango Oduor from the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). For more information on the Men II Men initiative in FEMNET email 

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