Like most parents, I am both thrilled and scared for my daughter and what the future will bring. Climate change, confusing and scary politics, and the evolution of technology to a point where most industries will resurface into formats that we barely recognize are just some of the challenges that lie ahead. There are very encouraging movements afoot in the arenas of fighting gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women (VAW), sexual exploitation and equal pay, but we keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep that societal evolution going!
So how do I as a parent navigate this world considering my parenting skills were influenced by my baby boomer parents? My strategies include working hard at ensuring that my parenting strategy incorporates modern parenting values and approaches so that she is prepared for adulthood and for being a good, contributing citizen to our world. I am also fortunate to have a network of strong female role models. They are my friends, they span many generations and, most importantly, they take an interest in my daughter’s upbringing and share ideas and opportunities with me.
One of those good friends takes the time to ensure I am informed about the wonderful opportunities for my daughter to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills that may help her build her own socially conscious business and achieve financial independence e.g. AmbiSHEous and Spice Leadership.
My wonderful friend does so because she is invested in helping young women navigate this evolving society. We celebrate the existence of these wonderful programs during a recent telephone conversation, but then paused and both shared the next thought that crossed our minds. Where are the programs for her teenaged son who she is raising? Where are the program opportunities for him to develop the skills he is going to need as he moves forward in life?
Denying youth the opportunity to learn and develop is a problem. She reminded me that she is raising a teenage son in this changing world and that she is worried that boys are going to be left behind. And she is right. This is something that we need to worry about and take action on quickly because unless we address this major gap, we may end up undermining any progress we make in freeing people from exploitation or inequity unless boys and young men keep up on a parallel track.
Now, one could easily make the argument that boys and men have enjoyed priority access and programming for decades, if not centuries. But I’m not going to try to navigate that minefield. Instead, I choose to focus on how to ensure that any progress we make that improves the lives of people who identify as female, is sustained and drives fundamental change. To do that, I believe we have to let go of this idea of that it’s the ‘girls’ turn now’ and remind ourselves that all genders need to find their way in this new world. That’s why it is critical that we support programs like MANifest Change and ManUp. Both these programs help young men develop their full potential while also learning about consent and other issues related to gender equality.
I believe that women will not be able to completely throw off the shackles of confinement created by any type of oppression unless young men also learn and develop socially appropriate behaviours during this societal revolution. We have all witnessed via the news or even in our own lives, what can happen when tracts of society become disenfranchised. In the rare and extreme cases, people can take to violence to express their frustrations. I’m not suggesting that we divert one gram of effort from our efforts to improve the lives of women around the world. I’m just saying let’s not forget the boys. You can show them support too by donating to any of the programs that exist, or through the Zonta eClub of Canada1.
This article was written by Robin Chiponski, a founding member of the Zonta eClub of Canada1’s Board of Directors. The views expressed here don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of other members of the Zonta e-Club of Canada1 or Zonta International.