Fresh from a training of CSOs on Gender and Power for the extension phase of the Voice to the People (V2P) project –a very lively and rich training – I still recall vividly the discussions that ensued on gender roles. One particular question keeps playing through my mind: “should men cry?”

My first response to this was an emphatic yes— I mean why not? Thinking out loud, I still cry myself to bed some nights, and I still remember crying on my mother’s shoulders as an adult male. Oh, how relieved and consoled I had felt. Except now, I am not so sure how I feel having listened to other men in the room vehemently describe crying as a feminine trait.

The word ‘deviant’ was thrown around which made me feel like hiding instantly. I must be a weakling; not only did I cry, oh I cried on the shoulders of a woman. I am supposed to be the strong one, the source of inspiration, the pillar of the home. You can picture me hiding my face in shame and deflation now. Something must be wrong with me!

And in a flash I was jolted back to reality by the voice of reasoning. My life, my rules! Societal influence plays a strategic role in shaping the outlook, choices and perceptions of individuals. Life changing decisions have been made based on perceptions and what the society has described as norms.

Conventional gender roles in the society interplay to decide for men and women what they can do, what is acceptable and who they can become; regardless of inherent talents, weaknesses and the varying capacities and desires/preferences of individuals.

Many people find themselves in this gender box, but have not the courage to break away. If you feel suffocated by gender restrictions, it is time to take a deep breath and chose to live freely. Pursue your dreams, realise your potentials and claim your rights.

I don’t know any better way to live than to live freely. When the gender seat you are on becomes too hot, please get comfortable. I long to see a society of men who are not afraid of walking the gender lines –change expectations, share responsibilities and challenge gender norms –and a society of women who will not be judged for realising their great potentials and living in ways that satisfy their needs.

As civil society actors and rights activists, it is incumbent on us to continue to challenge structures of power in the society and engage the systems and processes that foster inequality and exclusion. Gender based discrimination is not an issue of victory for the sexes, it is an issue of exclusion and marginalization of one over another which must be rooted out of our society.


Note: This piece was written by Christian Aid’s Programme Officer, Governance for his blog –

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