Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why do I support women's rights?

Robert Kirchner

Why do I support Women's Rights?
Coming from a country like Germany where women rights have already gone a long way, I experienced the social change that comes alongside women enjoying more and more rights every day. In particular, I am referring to the role of women and men in the household here. Some weeks ago, I was discussing this topic with a friend of mine at a typical men evening where we watched sports. He summarized the social change we experienced with regards to gender roles in the household in my opinion well when he said:” Listen Robert, it is like this, my grandfather could rest on the terrace while his wife did all the work at home and maybe from time to time he had to do a bit of work in the garden. My father then had to do the work in the garden and sometimes took the dishes out of the dishwasher. And what about us? There is a reason why we know how to cook, to wash and to clean. Because we do it quite often!” Indeed, it is true that in a society where women enjoy the same political and civil rights and have the same chances for a career, men will and do eventually end up covering the same share of responsibilities at home.  That doesn´t really sound very promising for us men, does it?
Well, no need to become afraid here since we talk about a good development for men as I would argue. Coming back to the households I spoke of before and especially the one I grew up in, I was never fully happy about the role that my mom and dad played in it. Honestly speaking, my mom was carrying the family as she not only worked but in addition took care of the entire household. I admired her for this and there were a lot of moments where I was wondering how much strength she must have to cope with all of her responsibilities. But then I also thought it was not fair that she had to do this much and that my dad needs to contribute more.
With this experience in mind, I am living in a household today with my girlfriend and, guess what,  I cook, wash and clean to an extent that can be considered a fair share of all the household responsibilities. At least, I hope that is what my girlfriend would say too. However, the point is that this helped me find out what kind of a man I am not and at the same time what kind of a man I am. I am not a man because I enjoy privileges that rights give me. I am not a man because I follow certain gender perceptions within a society that seem to make my life more comfortable. Instead, I am a MAN because every day I proof to myself that I cover the fair share of my responsibilities at work and at home and even beyond this point if necessary. Without women rights I would have never come to realize this. That is why I support women rights.
In the end, let me leave you with a question: What kind of a man are you?

Robert Kirchner is an environmental expert who worked on sustainability strategies with and for international organisations. He just recently contributed to the green growth strategy of the African Development Bank. Before, he drafted policy instruments for regional sustainable development in rural China or contributed to a sustainability strategy for the German government. If he is not busy working, he participated in the NGO Toastmasters which helps to practice public speaking skills or advocates for the interests of the younger generation at important conferences like Rio+20.