I used to think that all men under-value women, especially their role/contribution in economic development. That was until the day I had a chat with the Chairperson Local council five (LC5) of Packwach District, Mr. Omito Robert Steen, where he said, “Some people might say I have all the reasons to hate and despise women because of what my mother did to me as a young boy. However, I gained every reason to respect women because of the same woman- my mother.”

Of course, this statement piqued my interest, and I wanted to hear from Robert why he chose respect over what most would consider a reason to hate. He was happy to share his story. “When I was a little boy, I saw my mother battered by my father almost every day, it was not something nice to watch, but being a young boy, I didn’t even understand why. All of a sudden, my mother left and never came back. It is when I grew up that I learnt that she couldn’t bear the beatings anymore. For a number of years, I grew up with my father but it never felt the same, and it was during this time that he tried to make me blame my mother for not being an ideal wife or a “yes woman”. Gladly, he did not succeed, thanks to education which exposed me to the fact that women are vulnerable in almost all aspects because of what society believes in, such as treating them as property. At that point I approved of my mother leaving such a painful marriage. Women are undermined and yet they have a lot to contribute to society based on the fact that they are committed to service than to be served,” he says.

As Robert narrated his story, I couldn’t stop thinking that if all men were like him, this world would be a better place to live in especially for women. I also believe that there are other men like him out there.

One would think that like any other person Robert was just telling me what I wanted to hear but not exactly what he does or believes. I discovered that this was not the case however, because his words were reflected through his work. He has supported several women to participate in leadership, girl child education and many more women’s rights programmes. Our interaction in his office gave me an opportunity to meet all the women he works with and those he has supported to take on leadership roles. The District speaker Christine Manda was one of them and she could evidently elucidate the role Mr. Robert has played in her leadership journey.

Robert says his childhood experience gave him an opportunity to see the issues of women rights and gender equality differently and because of that, he is committed to support women to occupy and utilize the spaces that tradition and society had stopped them from entering; in other words, empowering women economically, political and socially.

Thanks to men such as Robert who have accepted to share the space with women.