Gender roles are the activities, responsibilities and rights that a society deem best for a specific gender. In the African setting, roles were designated according to gender and execution started when one was very young e.g. washing dishes, cooking and general house cleaning was a girl’s duty while boys took up more energy intensive chores such as herding, building and hunting depending on the community. With this setting, people grew up having an idea of what role they were expected to play in the society.
However, in the 21st century things have significantly changed and new status quo continue to be set. Women are taking up responsibilities that were earlier considered manly and vice versa. For example, in some households the primary bread winner is a woman while the caregiver is the man. Today’s society has experienced this reverse in roles due to various factors such as education, technology and unemployment among others. Jobs are hard to come across these days hence if the man is not making enough, the woman steps in and assists in paying the bills. In circumstances such as single parenting, the man/woman is left with the sole responsibility of providing and taking care of their family.
One would think that it has been easy to adapt to these changes but a recent twitter poll (link to this) which had asked users (Men) if they would help out with house chores in the event their partner was tired says otherwise. Most men, an overwhelming 60 % said that some chores are best reserved for women and that it was their (women) sole responsibility to make sure things are in order at home. “Mi kazi yangu ni kuleta unga, vile atapika na alete kwa meza ni kazi yake”, read one of the comments. This shows that there are still some men who hold on to the old patriarchal notion that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Even with feminist winds blowing across the globe, most women are still seen as mere house keepers. The quest for gender equality has not yet taken roots in many regions especially in Africa.
I recently asked a couple of male friends aged between 19-25 years if they would consider asking for financial assistance from their girlfriends. Surprisingly, most of them said that they would consider this option in the event that they really needed it. These two findings say a lot about different demographics. Most youths are open to the idea of sharing the role of provision and expenses with their partner but only to a certain reasonable extent to say the least. These new wave of free thinkers are redefining gender roles in the African context. On weekends, you’ll find them in shopping malls having a good one with their partner with the man carrying the child around as the lady does some shopping. Some men even carry handbags for their ladies, something that the older generation finds very uncomfortable.
So guys, it doesn’t hurt to get in the kitchen and whip something up for you two ifshe’s tired from work and you got home first. Doing dishes should be everyone’s responsibility, take turns in doing basic house chores. It’s totally normal for a guy to help out around the house. Ladies, in these harsh economic times, chip in in any way you can in the monthly expenditure. Come through for your guy when he is in need and am totally sure he will want to repay the favor some day!
For those who are able to work from home, let’s make each other’s Lockdown period bearable and worth it as we all try to adjust to the safety precaution measure against COVID-19.