‘Men Feel Threatened’

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Unlike in the past where men were known to be household leaders and women had to be submissive to them at all levels, women empowerment has resulted in men getting frustrated and increased cases of domestic violence. During an experts’ round-table discussion that focused on the “challenges in social, cultural and political life in Namibia and Africa under the perspective of globalisation”, Women’s Action for Development (WAD)’s Executive Director Veronica de Klerk pointed out that the developmental work done in an effort to empower women has given rise to conflicts of a different nature. She says the traditional man today finds himself entrapped in a situation where his comfort zone has been disturbed, resulting in conflict in the house. Women, who were in the past expected to be readily available, uneducated, and unempowered among others have through developmental programmes run by organisations like WAD received training on how to be assertive and confident, and in the process learnt how to deliberate during decision making. The empowerment has not only caused uneasiness among men but increased frustration especially among husbands that are unable to support their families fully. “He feels threatened by the fact that he is lagging behind, unemployed and therefore unable to contribute towards the household income, coupled with his wife’s new status of being the sole bread-winner of the family,” indicated De Klerk. This rising problem has invariably culminated in increased domestic violence and increased promiscuity, as men run away from their homes where women have acquired status and authority. De Klerk says traditional men are caught up in a very serious social dilemma of being almost forgotten because enormous amounts of money across the continent are being allocated for the empowerment of rural women because of the historical neglect of such women. The contribution of this shift in focus by donors to uplift previously neglected women has indeed shown serious consequences on traditional men. Namibia Men for Change (NAMEC) Chairperson Ngeno Nakamela told New Era that the organisation is very much aware of problems that have surfaced as a result of women empowerment. However, his organisation is actively involved in activities that are aimed at addressing matters pertaining to equality and males accepting females at all levels of society. “Just last week we were in Outapi where we addressed young men and one of the questions asked was if they would marry an educated or rich woman.” As expected, most men indicated they would not as they feel men must be providers in every home. “We are trying to make men understand that whoever provides in the house, the other one should not feel inferior. We are addressing that whenever we have a platform,” he stated. Nakamela further admitted that this could never be a simple task as most people would not simply “take and accept” what is taught as the practice is deeply instilled in the minds due to upbringing. “We are finding ways to neutralise this,” he said.