Last Saturday, November 19, was International Men’s Day. I decided to wait a while before commenting on it.
- Because November 19 was also birthday of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi (born 1828) who fought against the British empire bravely, and is remembered as “khoob ladi mardani woh to Jhansiwali Rani thi” (she fought in a ‘manly’ way).
- Because November 19 2016 was 100th birthday of former Indian Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi; she took on the Pakistani army in the war of liberation of Bangladesh, and Khalistani militants in Punjab as Prime Minister; she was called a ‘manly’ leader for her determination to fight.
- Because November 19 is also World Toilet Day, a day to refresh our resolve to make Open Defecation Free world; in India PM Modi has taken on this as a mission; the implementers (both government and civil society) have focused on women to take lead, and responsibility, for construction, and use, of toilets; it is ‘manly’ to do so!
There are common threads in all of the above-women act like men.
No coincidence that all these four ‘days’ fell on November 19.
Yet, it is also evident that issues facing boys and men-irrespective of what they do to girls and women-have been largely neglected lately.
- Boys in primary school today are less likely to move to post-secondary education a decade later.
- Boys do not get any opportunity to learn about “our bodies, our selves”, other than through porn.
- More teenage men wander around the streets of our neighbourhood aimlessly, feeling disconnected and ‘unwanted’.
- Male suicide rates have been increasing in many societies
So, we do need to focus on the concerns of boys and men, as boys and men, not merely in relation to girls and women. November 19 reminded us that Feminism In everyday Life entails supporting the concerns and agendas of boys and men too.
Feminists care for boys and men too, not necessarily act like them!
Dr. Rajesh Tandon is one of the Founder Directors of MFF (Martha Farrell Foundation), the Founder President of PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia), and Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, living in Delhi, India. He completed his graduation from IIT, Kanpur and post-graduation from IIM, Kolkata, and received his PhD from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States. He is an internationally acclaimed leader and practitioner of participatory research and development. Dr. Tandon specialises in social and organisational change and has contributed to the enhancement of perspectives and capacities of many voluntary activists and organizations. He has served on numerous government task forces and committees, and is the founder of the Board of Directors of World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS). He has written a number of articles, books and manuals on Participatory Research and related topics.