Friday, March 22, 2013

Men Empowerment

I come from a line of strong women. My mother is a strong woman. My grandmother was a matriarch of the clan. And currently, I am president of the Paranaque club of a women's organization. Women are empowered in the circles that I run in. In a lot of places I go, women empowerment is all the rage.

Some time ago, I had the privilege of spending time with Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga at the Enchanted Farm in Bulacan. And in his view, it is the men that we need to empower.

There has been a rise in very successful women these days. The glass ceiling that prevents women from rising to power in other countries does not exist in the Philippines. The only reason why there aren't that many women in a particular industry is usually simply because they don't want to be there. And while managing departments and running businesses, we still are able to take care of our children and run our households. But as our women get more powerful, our men also seem to be getting weaker. I'm just talking in general. There still are strong men out there. But a lot less than there used to be.

I lament that fact. I like strong men. Nowadays, they seem so rare. Being part of an organization that helps women, I've seen and heard so many stories of women of the underprivileged who work so hard, then come home and still cook and take care of the family. And their husbands just stay home and do nothing. The reason why organizations like Soroptimist choose to help the women is because studies have shown that when men earn, they give 70% to the family. But when women earn, they give the entire amount to the family. Again, this is generalization based on a study. There are the precious exceptions to the rule. But I can't help but think that we may have overlooked something in our study. Because while our women empowerment projects have been successful in bringing in income to help the children get fed and get put through school, it does not help the family as a whole because the men are left out and made useless.

Maybe Tito Tony is right. Maybe, instead of the women, it is the men who we should be empowering. Because unlike America or Europe, men and women in the Philippines were already originally treated equally. Look at our creation myth. Both Malakas and Maganda came out of the same bamboo stalk that split in half. Look at our language. There is no 'he' and 'she' distinction. There is only 'siya.' Prior to the Spanish, men and women were equal. The only difference was the role.

In pre-Hispanic Philippines, the women were also providers. In a lot of provinces, you'd hear grandmothers say that it was the women who farmed, and not the men. From what I have gathered, the men's primary role was protector. But our men were not averse to work, either. Aside from protecting, they did the hunting, too. My point is work was shared. Before the Spanish came, both the men and the women worked and were viewed as equals.

With women not foreign to work, it is not surprising that given opportunities, the Filipina succeeds. But what of the men? What do they protect the family from now? The problem I see is that solutions to problems in the west are being brought here where the situation is not the same. I'm not against women empowerment. One doesn't become president of a women's organization without believing in the cause. But what I'm saying is, maybe we're forgetting our men. Maybe we are not giving enough thought and research on what is really needed in the Filipino family. Maybe empowering just the women is the easiest, but not necessarily the best in the long run, solution to bettering the lives of Filipino families.

I have no solid solution to these thoughts at the moment. All I know is that I am moved by this problem, and I'd like to look into empowering the men of my country for the sake of the family. The activator in me is itching to start something. But at the moment, these are yet disjointed thoughts that need more aging. I would like to hear your thoughts if you do have thoughts on the matter. What's your opinion? Do you think the problem only exists in a certain economic group? Do you know any movements in this area? Talk to me.

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