Wlibonou Asoutoe - take care of your man is something that young girls at home in Benin grow up with," tells Constant Dangbegnon, participating in the March 16th Crossroads discussion evening on the topic of gender roles. To initiate a discussion, four participants were asked to react to the prepared statement: In my country, men and women have equal chances, rights and obligations and are free to fill in their lives according to their personal preferences. For Judith Kiragu from Kenya, answering the statement question was not a matter of a straightforward yes or no. She underscored that equality between men and women is definitely two-sided because there is a difference between theory and practice. This further depends upon whether the context is rural or urban. Constant Dangbegnon suggested that if the women of Benin could become more economically independent, they would be able to have more power in relation to that of men and they co
uld share in the decision making.
In her presentation Indira Simbolon from Indonesia reminded the group of about 20 that even the discussion statement is a problematic first step. She explains, Breaking free of one's gender role is not just a personal issue. It can not be seen as a purely internal decision - a matter of will and thus taking a decision. We need to look at the social and political dynamics. Furthermore, we need to question whether participation in the economic sphere is really going to lead to emancipation or rather to further marginalization."
The Crossroads meetings are an initiative of the foreign and Dutch student chaplaincies. Next month's meeting, on April 20th, will be on the topic of Liberation.