Men Wanted

In spite of a robust GDP rate (8%-9%), almost half of all Indian children – 42% – are malnourished.  Seems that a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats.

In spite of a thriving economy, the malnutrition, low birthweight and maternal mortality rates in India rivals those of sub-Saharan Africa.

Which is not only tragic for those children and their families but for all of the people of India, as these underweight and malnourished children suffer from poor health and reduced mental capacity which results in problems that are estimated to cost the Indian government c. $28bn a year. (1)

So, why are the children in this growing economy continuing to suffer so badly?

It seems the main reason is the fact that women in India have a lower status than men and as a result don’t have enough power to see that their children’s needs are met. (2)

A study in Nepal found that children are less likely to be underweight if their mothers own land.  (3)

Another study in Nicaragua and Honduras demonstrated that families spend more money on food when the woman owns land.

In Ghana a study found that families allocate more of their household budget to food when women own a share of the family farmland. (4)

All around the world when women are educated and have secure rights, their families have better education, better nutrition and better health.

I know it is probably not news to you all that everybody in a society does better when women are treated equally. And I know I keep saying this same thing in different ways (sorry for the repetition) but I have now decided to say one thing I’ve never said before – where are the men in this?

Surely these children all have fathers?  Even if they don’t respect their wives as much as they should – why don’t they feel they have to care for their children?  Why don’t the women in their societies hold them to this sacred duty?  Why are these adult men not ashamed when they put their wants before their children’s needs?

I have a father, husband, three sons, two brothers and many male friends. I love and admire all of them and those amongst them who have children are honourable and dedicated fathers.  How are they so different to other men in the world?

Is it because they live in a society where women have (more or less) equal status? Where women have rights? Where women are educated?  If so, what factors in this have allowed some men (like the men in my life) to develop greater courage, selflessness and care than their counterparts in other parts of the world?

I’m not suggesting that all the men in western societies care for their children but many of them certainly do – many more than in other cultures.

My question is – why?






10 comments on “Men Wanted

  1. nrhatch says:

    Socialization is a powerful force in manufacturing our views.

    In countries with a strong division of labor between men and women . . . there is men’s work and women’s work.

    And men are socialized to believe that caring for children is not their responsibility.

  2. sweetmother says:

    that is a tough one. i think it is a perfect storm thing – poverty which is that extreme. the inducing cause never seems to be one thing, but millions of things all tangled together and resulting in a paralyzing problem. i do agree, though, that if you educated young girls, you help to offset these types of issues or at least lessen them.

  3. granbee says:

    Could it be because in this “third world” societies the men themselves do not feel they have much worth, so they selfishly claim most of the food for themselves to try to be stronger, or something? In many of these places, there is not enough food for the children because there are too many children born. The men could think, “Oh, well, so that one sickened and died. She will get pregnant and have another next year.” Expendable commodities, don’t you see?

  4. Erik says:

    What can one man do, to help another man, connect to those in his life? In the life of others? How do we all encourage men to not be silent but to speak with confidence, courage, clarity, and kindness again? How do we get men to then act on that in a way that harmonizes their natural talents, with their unique challenges, to better other’s lives?

    In non-western societies you (we/i) have to upend the culture of man, and the culture of woman, to redefine roles of equitable status. But we also have to understand how it has come to be, to help a discover process where new roles can even exist. We must become cultural warriors that forge forward with new roles rather than looking longingly at archaic models that no longer do justice to the world we live in.

    It ekes around my consciousness, that maybe it’s not that I have anything to preach to the choir, but rather to help menfolk redefine their roles as emotive beings, connected to their young, and the young of others. This challenges me on many levels and I’m not entirely sure just yet what to do with it. Thank you for a great thought provoking post.

    • I think we do need exactly that – new ways of being, ways that are based on our humanity not our gender or social or other status. Maybe men just need to connect to their humanity and the rest will fall into place? Women too?

  5. momshieb says:

    What a powerful and intriguing question! As a mother of two sons, a mother who wants to have raised caring, thoughtful men/fathers/husbands, I am so struck by the question.
    I know that social factors are powerful, and that the idea of a “good person” shifts from one place and time to another, but I share your puzzlement about why men anywhere would fail to provide for their children to the best of their ability. To me, the idea of a man putting his needs ahead of this children’s welfare goes against nature, evolution and logic.

    • I know and I agree totally (obviously!) – I wish I knew the answer – maybe it’s a combination of what some of the other contributors to this discourse have said – out of touch with their humanity, lack of self-esteem, complex issues of poverty, over-defined gender based roles, lack of education all round?

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