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Education, health, emotions – DoGA highlights issues to focus on this International Men’s Day

By Orville Williams

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As much of the world recognised International Men’s Day (IMD) yesterday, the Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA) called on men to do more to address some of the many challenges they face, both individually and collectively.

The annual observation of IMD is meant to celebrate the achievements of men and boys, highlight their responsibility to be positive role models, and raise awareness about the importance of men’s well-being.

Many issues relating to the latter are often neglected, both by men themselves and the wider society, but the Acting Director of DoGA, Jamie Saunders, says IMD provides the perfect platform for these issues to be addressed.

“I think International Men’s Day really gives us a good opportunity to take a look at some of the issues that are very prevalent to men and boys here that don’t really get looked at.

“For me, [one of those is] mental health. Over the years in Antigua, we’ve seen a lot more suicides happening and a lot of men in Antigua, even across the region, are more [involved] in that – and it’s [largely] because of stereotypes.

“We don’t really know as men how to process emotions and cope in a healthy way, and it leads to detrimental effects on us,” Saunders said.

And it’s not just the psycho-emotional aspect of health that is important, he added, with physical health also requiring similar attention.

Men may be considered physically stronger but the Acting Director says they often simply do not do enough to care for their physical health.

“We don’t really engage in a lot of health-seeking behaviours as [many] women do, and a lot of times we only do it after our health has reached a [detrimental] point, when sometimes it’s almost too late or a lot of damage has been done,” he explained.

Education is another area Saunders believes males need to make a greater effort to excel in, pointing out the disparity between themselves and women at the tertiary level.

He called on men to make a concerted effort to improve their educational prospects, saying it is one of the most important ways to meet their socio-economic responsibilities.

“We’re seeing a lot of men fall behind in tertiary level education. The women are dominating – and that’s not a bad thing that a lot of women are pursuing their tertiary level education – but we need to see our men get back on par.

“That will translate into the workforce, the type of economic opportunities and support that they’re able to offer to their families and their communities,” he added.

The theme for this year’s observance of International Men’s Day is “Better relations between men and women” – a nod toward the importance of improving gender relations and promoting gender equality.

Five reasons why International Men’s Day (IMD) should be celebrated by everyone:

  1. IMD allows for greater focus on the issues affecting men and boys across the world.
  2. IMD gives men a sense of pride toward their achievements and responsibilities.  
  3. IMD is a vehicle toward improving gender relations and promoting gender equality.
  4. IMD encourages men and boys to be better fathers, sons, brothers and friends.
  5. IMD discourages any actions from men that negatively affect those around them.
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