Feminist Series—How I Became a Feminist

By Emmanuel Mensah

My name is Emmanuel Kodwo Mensah. I am a 34-year-old Ghanaian male who has spent nearly a decade in Kampala, Uganda with my family which consists of my beautiful wife and two daughters — Vicky and Gabby. I came to Uganda for a Masters in Gender Studies on the 2014 Crop Scientists for Africa Agriculture (CSAA) Intra ACP Mobility MA/Sc Scholarship at the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Kampala. I came to love the country, and the men and women I studied and worked with: my classmates who took me to their villages for Christmas holidays; the friendly, relaxed, and tolerant people; the diverse and rich culture and tourist attractions; the opportunity to learn and discover myself; and my wife and best friend whom I count on every single day. All these confirmed the similarities between Ghana and Uganda, and most notably the reason to stay in Uganda — build a family, hone my skills and knowledge and contribute to society.

Currently, I work as an Associate Researcher at Includovate and contribute to Includovate’s important goal through collecting and analysing raw data and information to identify trends, patterns, anomalies, and other helpful and/or interesting information that informs policies and decision-making. I am privileged to work in this capacity because of my role model — My father. My father made a “kind gesture” by granting me the right to an education — even though he sometimes struggled to pay my school fees, he motivated and inspired me. In retrospect, it is not hard for me to appreciate his reasons. He was denied his rights to complete an education because of the rules of the Ghanian matrilineal system of succession and inheritance. This system means that all children belong to a woman’s family or lineage; succession and inheritance meet the concerns and needs of the woman’s immediate family. Some men believe that when they invest in their children, they will “go to their mother’s lineage” without any benefit to them — and that was the fate of my father. However, he ensured that I got the best education to be an empowered individual and also contribute to society.

My work as a researcher and gender equality advocate (co-founder of Wang-oo Male Engagement Forum) — with a focus on male accountability for gender equality helps to make the world a better place. The founding of Wang-oo Forum in Uganda in 2017 fulfilled a unique but urgent need to share the knowledge I gained as a male student. Men and boys are usually the principal perpetrators of SGBV, and sometimes they are victims but they are often neglected in the fight against SGBV. The aim is to use multi-level interventions to understand and empower men to unlearn negative behaviours (negative masculinities) by changing and modelling alternative attitudes and behaviours (positive masculinity) to prevent and/ or reduce the prevalence and negative impacts of violence against women and girls.

As a researcher, my father’s different perspective of the matrilineal system and the knowledge gained has taught me two key lessons. Firstly, the importance of understanding discrimination, vulnerability, inequality and exclusion from a multidimensional perspective rather than just labelling it as being a male or female issue. This I learnt from growing up in a matrilineal society in Ghana. This gave me a unique purview on gender relations that has helped me to create more equality in Uganda. Secondly, by working with men in Uganda over the past 5 years, I have learnt that gender equality can be achieved through working with men as allies, partners and activists and empowering them to unlearn, learn and deconstruct patriarchal or traditional notions of being male or female. So, I try to challenge behaviours that promote and sustain the violation of human rights — especially violence against women and girls. This is important because men can change their fellow men and use their institutional power to promote change — a change that is less violent, and better for everyone.

Emmanuel Mensah wearing an orange t-shirt, holding mic on the right hand and a yellow coloured sign that has a writing of: ‘VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS’ on the left hand
Emmanuel educating men on positive masculinity and their roles as partners to achieve gender equality during 16 Days of Activism, 2019 © Emmanuel Mensah

At this point, my ideal world is one where gender inequality is not just a woman’s issue, but it is about the rights of ALL — especially women, girls and other socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Thus, I want to see a world that is secure, safer, and friendlier for ALL to enjoy, to unleash their potential, improve themselves, and their family while contributing to economic growth. Most notably because I have two daughters, female siblings, and friends and I would like them to be respected and live freely without violence.

This makes Includovate one of the organisations that I admire. This is because it provides me with a unique opportunity to develop myself as a researcher and contribute a new dimension to the knowledge of social inclusion, gender responsiveness, and disability inclusion. And most importantly, it gives me an opportunity to learn in a stimulating and creative environment, and work with intellectuals — all outstanding in their research and training, and with a keen interest in providing evidence-based research findings that will help end gender inequality, poverty, and injustice.

In essence, I am committed and willing to do the little I can in a unique and positive way because, “Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls, and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility” (Ban Ki-moon).

About the Author:

Emmanuel is an Uganda-based, Associate Researcher at Includovate. At Includovate, his work focuses on the development of research methodologies, data collection, data analysis and report writing. He also conducts policy analysis that enhance informed decision-making. Before joining Includovate, he worked at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), MobiPay AgroSys Limited, and Wang-oo Male Engagement Forum (WMEF), Uganda. At MobiPay, he worked as Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Officer with a focus on gender, inclusive market systems and agriculture, technology and digital financial inclusion for rural development, youths and women empowerment. As the co-founder of WMEF, his work focused on empowering and promoting transformative masculinity amongst males to ensure their accountability for gender equality. As a Gender Research Fellow, at IITA, he investigated Intra-household decision-making for Adoption of Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices in Nwoya District, Northern Uganda, and contributed a publication to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’s Partnership for Scaling CSA (P4S). Emmanuel holds a BSc in Community Nutrition (University for Development Studies, Ghana), and Masters of Arts in Gender Studies (Makerere University, Uganda)

Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Ethiopian-Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

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