‘Biased policy discourses, directed by international organisations and governments, identified women as subjects facing inequality’
THERE are various aspects in which boys and men have been overlooked when inequality is being quantified and measured in the Global South (developing countries).
This is especially true in regions such as the Caribbean, India, Africa and Latin America. The disparity between males and females is not a recent phenomenon but has been occurring since the 1960s. Biased policy discourses, directed by international organisations and governments, identified women as subjects facing inequality.
To rectify this gender imbalance, these organisations and governments have allocated funding to programmes and training sessions that target girls and women. Thus, one of the major causes of male marginalisation is the focus on “correcting” gender inequality rather than promoting gender equality and gender equity. The unfortunate consequence is that by the end of the 20th Century, women in many developing countries had attained socio-economic advantages over men and boys who were now ‘invisible’.
Many girls and women have benefitted from more educational opportunities due to the emphasis on education and this has contributed to increased social mobility. Unfortunately, this trend has resulted in a gender gap in which gender imbalance or reverse gender discrimination is accepted as the norm. Even at the international level, men are given secondary status. The evidence is at the United Nations, in which the powerful body UNWomen exists but no similar arm known as UNMen.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) produced a short brochure entitled Monitoring PAHO’s Gender Equality Plan of Action 2009-2014. The focus is on the Caribbean and Latin America including Panama, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Nicaragua.
On the first page of the brochure, there is mention that “the Americas is the region with the largest inequalities” and identified realities that still persist such as women living longer than men and the grim fact that men faced higher rates of mortality and premature deaths. One of the significant statements in the conclusion is, “…the greatest challenge to gender integration in health is political support.” Such factors as education, health, life expectancy and social mobility, have been used as indices to measure ‘progress’ and ‘development’. However, this is an illusion. If these identical indices are used to gauge progress among men, there are glaring inequalities. One of the great tragedies is that many do not appreciate the real meanings of ‘equity’ and ‘equality’.
Policymakers regularly use statistics to sensitise the public on selected issues that affect women. For instance, there would be statistics and media publicity for breast cancer among Caribbean women. This would be coupled with screening and advice on early detection. On the contrary, there are no similar and updated statistics on prostate cancer, hypertension or diabetes among Caribbean men. Is this a deliberate omission? Where is the health focus on men? Members of the media have a crucial role to educate the public on the many emotional, psychological and health challenges facing our men and boys.
The issue becomes more complicated when one considers the flawed manner in which social scientists have sought to measure social inequality and economic disparity. Likewise, their proposed solutions have continuously proven to be ineffective in removing barriers and eliminating the gender gap. These academics have devised solutions within a political context and either overlooked or are unwilling to deal with ideologies and systems as capitalism, religion and patriarchy which have perpetuated a considerable part of this historical inequality.
Unravelling this inequality narrative will reveal the historical bias that had the repercussion of creating a generation of marginalised, violent and dysfunctional boys and men. Illustrations in the Global South will include the absence of safe houses, shelters and counsellors for men who are wrongly perceived by many in society as strong, independent and capable of survival. Not surprisingly institutions exist for women and girls who are victims of domestic violence. The visualisation of inequality occurs when boys and men are not considered as being vulnerable to depression or homelessness or victims of rape and domestic violence. Attempts at interventions and counter-measures to include boys and men in the inequality debate appear superficial.
Supporters and coordinators of the global men’s movement must be the watchdogs of any plan or policy of gender equality and gender equity. This is not a task restricted for policy makers of NGOs. We must intervene and ensure that the gender gap is permanently closed and never reopened!
Dr Jereome Teelucksingh is a recipient of the Humming Bird (Gold) Medal for Education and Volunteerism. He is attached to the Department of History at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine. He has published books, chapters and journal articles on the Caribbean diaspora, masculinity, culture, politics, ethnicity and religion. Also, he has produced a documentary – Brown Lives Matter and presented papers at academic conferences.
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