By Sarah Samson Choji, YWCA of Nigeria
In our society today, young people constitute almost 40-45% of the overall population of our nation. With this large number, there’s a need to harness and invest in this group of able, energetic and lively people to bring about sustainable growth in our economy-through enlightenment and bringing to awareness vital issues that concerns them, especially in decisions they make in their life time. “Contextual Bible Study and everyday choices of a young person” was the theme for this one day seminar which was sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) which seeks to improve and change some negative behavior and attitude that young people seem to inculcate due to the norms of our societal values such as traditions, cultural and religious beliefs. Contextual bible study is the study of the bible in its own context in an interactive way, sharing the context of the reader and the context of the bible into dialogue and also to raise awareness and transformation. This seminar therefore, intends to challenge young people especially boys and the menfolk in general to change and correct certain behaviors and self-centered attitudes that pose a threat to the health and mental state of children, girls, young women and women in the society, thereby encouraging our male counterparts to be better men, husbands, fathers, lovers and brothers in the society that not only protect but see that harmful practices and attitudes that degrade women are erased and inculcating positive behavior that will foster peace and harmony in our community and also give room for women to contribute positively to the society at large. It is in view of the foregoing that young people were drawn from various youth based NGOs, health community, religious society, ministry of women affairs, ministry of youth and development and individuals that have the young people at heart to deliberate on various issues that concerns this large populace. Looking at the issues; gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, youth sexuality and reproductive health rights, these are issues that are labelled as “women issues” because most of the caring and activism has been done by women. Men are rarely seen in the picture in the fight against such issues therefore we are urging religious leaders and men to make sexual and gender based violence and HIV “human issues”. At this seminar, contextual bible study was used as a tool to challenge men to have a fresh look at their responsibilities. We are convinced that this responsibilities have become more even more urgent in the struggle against sexual and gender based violence and HIV. We contend that by mobilizing boys, young men and men, religious communities will increase their effectiveness in addressing pressing social, political and economic issues. Definitely we believe that men are not the problem: they are well placed to contribute towards social transformation. They are critical players in contributing towards “a new heaven and a new earth”. This is a world characterized by gender justice. Gender justice is achieved when women and men interact as equals created in the image of God.
In different parts of the world, men have emerged as the gender that is mostly responsible for perpetrating sexual and gender based violence. In addition they are most likely to have multiple concurrent sexual partners thereby increasing their partners’ (either at home or outside) and their ownvulnerability to HIV. This has seen an increase in the use of the idea “transformative masculinity”, especially in the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA).
“Transformative Masculinity” seeks to challenge boys and men to contribute towards more helpful and life giving ideas about what it means to be men. In many cultures, ideas relating to a “real man” suggest that is one who:
- Uses force and violence in relationships
- Rough, tough and insensitive
- Does not recognize the human rights of women, feelings/emotions(especially in public)
- Does not accept leadership of women
- Has sex with as many women as possible
- Accepts the use of language that denigrates the stature of women
- Must always be in control; possessive and dominating
- Exceedingly competitive and does not fall
- Addicted to work.
This and so much more the list can go. The overall aim is to contribute towards the multiplication of “gender equitable” men in our communities.
The Role of Religious Leaders in Promoting Transformative Masculinity.
Religious leaders play avital role in promoting transformative masculinity. To begin with, religions have tended to support or justify the abuse of power by men. Many men, including those who are not actively religious, appeal to sacred texts to justify why they should dominate women. Some perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence maintain that religion has accorded them the rights to do as they please with women. Religious leaders can help to challenge such abuses of religion by challenging men to be more sensitive and caring.