Many women face the issue of power imbalance and gender inequality worldwide. Often the way organizations try to overcome this problem is through focusing on women and the ways to change their outlook along with creating new opportunities, independence, and empowerment of the women.
An example of such a project has developed in the western part of Kenya. Along the edge of Lake Victoria, the main source of income for many locals is through selling fish. What commonly occurs is the fishermen catch the fish, who in turn bargain with customers (most often women). The customers buy the fish to then resell at a local market for a small profit. This sounds innocent enough until one learns the details of the bargaining; payment for the fish if most often made through sex. This is so common a local term even exists for this practice, “jaboya”, meaning “sex for fish”. Most often, the women participate in jaboya knowing the associated health risks involved because they have no alternatives for buying fish and generating an income.
In response to jaboya, a project entitled “No Sex for Fish” was created by local Peace Corps volunteers and Vired International. Through the use of loans from the project, the women are now able to purchase their own boats, employ fisherman, and produce an income and enables them to take control and no longer have to depend on men to obtain the fish.
Participants in the No Sex for Fish project (photo: Vired International)
Empowering women is an important and essential step to overcome issues of inequality, however, it is not the only step. When tackling a problem, there is need to look at all aspects contributing to the issue. When the issue is inequality for women, in addition to focusing on empowerment of the women, it is important to also focus on the men in the society who are contributing to creating the inequality. This is exemplified from the viewpoint of the fisherman who admitted to sleeping with 3 women per week in exchange for his fish. He stated “I inherited this practice from my father, who used to do the same…. Yes I am ashamed and it’s a bad thing. But there are temptations that come with women.”
This statement portrays how a vast number of men view women: as temptations. These men are learning from those before them and emulating the same behavior. If these views and behaviors are never addressed, then these issues will never be fully resolved. There needs to be a shift from boys and men learning to view women as temptations, but instead as competent, capable women who are peers and potential partners in business. To encourage and spread this change in mindset to today’s men worldwide, programs need be in place which focus on men and their attitudes in addition to women’s empowerment programs.