“It is better to build boys than to repair men.”

Ecumenical Women’s excellent workshop on positive masculinities and gender partnerships began with the above quote, repeated by both Ezra Chitando and Fulata Mbano-Moyo. Recognizing that repairs are still sometimes necessary they invited us into the process of Contextual Bible Study, through which texts of oppression (the example they used was 2 Samuel 13:1-22 – the rape of Tamar) can become springboards for liberating change.

Doreen Boyd spoke about positive masculinities and positive femininities at Ecumenical Women's panel

Doreen Boyd spoke about positive masculinities and positive femininities at Ecumenical Women's panel

Doreen Boyd with the United Methodist Church in the Caribbean, reminded us that the process of liberating women and men is inextricably linked: “For every woman who steps towards her liberty there is a man who discovers the path to freedom.” For example, as we women claim our right to be taken seriously intellectually men may find that they are allowed to express themselves emotionally.

The process of working towards gender equality is too important, and too large, to be left to only half of the world’s population. Men need to relinquish their undeserved male privilege and we women need to admit the existence of negative femininities as well as negative masculinities – and welcome male companions in the struggle for justice and equality. Working together offers us the best possibility of men and women both growing into the full richness of our shared humanity.

One sign of hope was found when Chaitanya Motupalli, a seminarian from India, spoke of his desire to be to his family all that his mother had been to him. Role models such as this would indeed help build boys who could play their part in creating a world where women and men could both flourish.