In the heart of a bustling metropolis, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) stands as a beacon of hope amidst the challenges of climate change. As the world faces unprecedented environmental threats, KCIC has dedicated itself to fostering innovation and empowering communities to innovatively combat the climate crisis.
As we continue striving for gender equality and women empowerment through our various programmes, we have been continuously confronted by an uncomfortable truth – our failure to fully engage men in some of the programmes that target women–and the subsequent failure of the interventions to fully empower the women.
World over, several well-intentioned programmes that target women fail because they are perceived as interventions that seek to empower and bolster women at the expense of men. Conflict inevitably arises because women do not exist in isolation. They co-exist with men, they live with men, and work with men towards their aspirations. These men are their fathers, husbands, brothers, colleagues. A program that fails to bear that in mind has limited chances of optimum success. Empowering women does not have to take an antagonistic approach towards men, because a truly progressive society is where both men and women are productively and collaboratively contributing towards development.
Kenyan society, like most African societies, is still patriarchal in nature and any program that places focus on women and girls, must consider the component of male engagement. KCIC’s AgriBiz programme which targets women and youth in agribusiness is one such programme. Men need to understand why focus is being placed on women, to avoid interpreting the programs as sets of opposing ideals. Most importantly, men need to work side by side with women, to forge collaborations capable of addressing the most pressing issues of the modern time.
KCIC’s leadership has recognized that to truly tackle climate change and engage women in development programs, it is essential to include all voices and talents, regardless of gender. The organization is on a mission to create an inclusive space that welcomes men, fostering a diverse and collaborative atmosphere to drive meaningful change. This is being done through male engagement dialogue initiative, which targets collaborations between men and women at both households and communities.
In the context of our programs, we have come to understand that by participating in their wives’ empowerment initiatives, men can play a pivotal role in breaking down traditional gender roles and challenging societal norms that hinder women’s economic progress.
Institutions working on women’s empowerment programs must as well, take initiative in involving men in such program and if involved, men can provide range of supports to such programs, especially those that involve their spouses. This support can entail the following;
- Offering financial backing is crucial for a wife’s successful initiatives. Men can invest in their wives’ ventures or provide access to capital and resources, enabling them to develop and grow their businesses.
- Men also provide emotional backing and encouragement to their wives, helping them build confidence and resilience in the face of challenges that arise in entrepreneurship.
- Men can share their knowledge and experience in business management, marketing, or any other relevant fields, thereby enhancing their wives’ business acumen.
- Men can contribute to the household by sharing domestic duties, freeing up time for their wives to focus on their businesses without feeling overwhelmed by household chores.
- Men can actively advocate for gender equality and challenge gender biases in their communities and workplaces, promoting a more supportive environment for women entrepreneurs.
- Recognizing and celebrating the successes of their wives’ businesses helps build self-esteem and motivates further growth.
It is important to note that men’s engagement in the empowerment of their spouses’ businesses not only benefits the individual family but also contributes to broader societal progress. It sets a positive example for the next generation, encouraging more balanced and equal partnerships in both personal and professional spheres. Ultimately, it fosters an environment where women’s entrepreneurial potential can flourish, leading to greater economic prosperity and social well-being for all.
By Janani Loum, GESI Advisor – KCIC and WUSC