Mentoring Youth as vectors of gender equality within their communities
By: Kaviri Ali
Looking at Uganda’s situation, the youth account to over 70% and the section of women in leadership is far way behind that of men. In terms of political representation, men occupy most of the mainstream seats in parliament and at local council levels whilst most women are elected on the basis of affirmative action policy which takes women as marginalized part of society. For instance, in 2011 general elections out of the 1,269 candidates nominated for the directly elected seats in parliament, only 46 were women accounting for 3.62% whereas the men were 1,223 accounting for 96.38%.
The situation at work places is not different especially where top jobs are still being occupied by men due to a fixed false belief that women are incapable. In homes, many women are still seen as kitchen wives who are incapable of even managing financial resources of the home. Many cultures take women as irresponsible and a promiscuous part of society without questioning the adulterous and uncivilized behaviours of men. In such an environment which is highly patriarchal, many have internalized male norms and values and have not advanced the gender equality agenda and influencing public policy especially from a gender perspective has become a daunting task for women legislators. Those who may be willing to take up leadership positions have been impoverished by the cultural wing of society that believes that women are only meant to do the production, whereas the management of the finances is left to the men who deny them access and budgeting of that money. The over dependency of women on men for financial assistance renders women immune to seeking to assume leadership positions since some of these procedures requires a robust financial muscle.
In the above light, Empowerment of young women and men leaders is crucial for the achievement of gender equality and social justice. They need to be empowered socially, economically and politically. There is need to increase access to information to women and young leaders to become advocates of change. An informed woman, young leader will lead to an informed society. Access to information is a powerful tool for influencing change.
Additionally, Young women and men need to be mentored for social change. In addition to strengthening the capacities of women and youth in decision making and advancing issues of gender equality in the political arena, we also need to nurture feminist visions and values among young people who will come into public institutions with “a critical eye” especially on societal pressing issues such as social injustices and Gender inequalities.
And more importantly, we need to begin empowering women from childhood by instilling in them concepts of leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, effective interpersonal communication and public speaking among others. These will enables women to learn leadership roles at a tender age and therefore practice it when growing up.
It also worth also noting that young people should also be equipped with knowledge on Gender, culture and sexuality, Leadership in context, Conflict Management and resolution, Emotional Intelligence, Communication and Public Speaking skills among others to enable them be better focused in their undertakings and positively influence those they interact with, thereby improving the situations in which they operate.
It is only by infusing transformative leadership skills and knowledge as aforementioned into youth’s overall leadership through mentorship that the realization of social change and indeed gender equality will be attained.
Ali is Intern with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) in Uganda that transforms young people to become leaders of change as they deliver information and communications technology (ICT) training in their own communities.