Evelyn Fonkem wants to make life more fair for girls—and she’s getting men and boys to join her.
“My brother must be part of the solution.”
A lifetime of gender discrimination begins before I am even born.
Because I am a girl, I am more likely to be killed in my mother's womb.
Because I am a girl, my room is painted pink while my brother's room is painted blue.
After I am born, the discrimination continues.
Because I am a girl, I am expected to spend an extra three quarters of an hour more on domestic chores and take care of my junior siblings. Meanwhile, my brother sits in his room playing video games and watching movies.
Because I am a girl, my brother orders me to prepare food for him. To him, my place is in the kitchen.
Because I am a girl, my classmates usually scorn me and laugh at me when my uniform is stained with blood due to menstruation. No one provides me withessentials like sanitary pads. This causes me to miss classes and exams until my period is over.
Because I am a girl, I am more likely to be harmed by traditional practices throughout my life—practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation, andbreast ironing. If I start a business, no one will extend credit to me. If I am widowed, I must go through isolating widowhood rites.
Because I am a girl, I was refused my own share of my father's land. My father says, "I will share my landed property only to my sons."
Because I am a girl, the media portrays me as the weaker sex, a prostitute, or a sex object. I am portrayed as the one who takes care of the house, while my brother is portrayed as the money provider.
Because I am a girl, I grew up with gender inequality that has made me the gender activist I am today.
Today, I bring communities together to train them on gender norms and equity so that girls can grow up with the same opportunities as their brothers.
I have learned through this work that we cannot underestimate the role of men and boys as gender advocates. My brother must be part of the solution. When we train men and boys—and when we work with traditional rulers, who are custodians of discriminatory laws against women—change is possible.
In our trainings, men participate in dramas and live debates to demonstrate the importance of gender equality. This approach is changing the mindsets of men in my community.
As a result, I am seeing men become whistle blowers against perpetrators of gender-based violence. I am now seeing men sharing their property with their female children; some local chiefs in communities I have worked in are revising harmful policies and laws that are discriminatory to women and girls; I am seeing men engaged in domestic chores and morewomen included as members of the traditional councils. I see men fighting for the rights of women and girls.
We need to continue challenging boys and men to join us and champion women's leadership. We need to keep working until the next generation can say, “Because I am a girl, I have every chance to achieve my dreams.”
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