Viewpoint

November 5, 2023

International Men’s Day: Recognising and honouring the unseen struggles, sacrifices of men

16 days of activism: We won’t achieve safe world for women, girls without support of men

By Halima Layeni

With International Men’s Day on the horizon, the silence surrounding men’s struggles and the lack of acknowledgement for their sacrifices and emotional well-being demand our immediate attention. In a world where International Women’s Day is celebrated with fervour and prominence, the muted celebration of men’s contributions and the absence of recognition for their hardships is a pressing societal concern that needs urgent addressal. It is time to shatter this silence and confront the complex challenges faced by men in today’s society.

Before enlisting men as allies in the pursuit of gender equality, it is crucial to acknowledge and support their emotional struggles. Men often bear the weight of societal expectations that demand emotional resilience, stoicism, and adherence to the traditional “be a man” culture. This entrenched cultural norm, passed down through generations, has ensnared men in a suffocating silence, dissuading them from expressing vulnerability or seeking essential help.

As we delve into this crucial issue, it is imperative to illuminate the multifaceted challenges men face. Men just like women, can be victim of violence, yet their experiences are frequently marginalized or dismissed. Reports of violence, be it emotional, physical, or domestic, perpetrated against men are often under-reported, owing to stigmas surrounding male victimhood. The prevailing notion that men should epitomize strength and remain impervious to pain forces them into silence, exacerbating mental health issues and contributing to alarmingly high rates of depression and suicide among men.

To drive this change, access to mental health support for men must not only be free but also easily accessible. Through my years of advocating for men’s mental health and providing support for men in need, we have found that when provided with a safe, non-judgemental space, men—regardless of their trauma—do open up and seek help. 

Governments and stakeholders worldwide must establish systems and structures that provide indispensable resources to men without prejudice or financial burden. There is an urgent need for a clearly defined and distinctive system tailored to meet men’s specific needs.

As we commemorate International Men’s Day on the 19th of November 2023, I invite society, Government and all relevant stakeholders to shed light on the often unspoken sacrifices made by fathers, breadwinners, and husbands. These men silently shoulder immense responsibilities, enduring sleepless nights, relentless hard work, and the weight of providing for their families. Their struggles often remain unseen, yet they embody a profound dedication and resilience that deserves acknowledgement and appreciation.

For too long, societal norms have downplayed the emotional toil and sacrifices of men who take on the role of provider. The stereotypical image of stoic, unyielding masculinity has masked the internal battles they face—the invisible tears shed in solitude, the fears of inadequacy, and the constant pressure to fulfil expectations. These men confront countless challenges on the path to success, bearing the burden of supporting their loved ones, often without seeking recognition or appreciation.

It’s time to dismantle the misconceptions and societal norms that overlook the sacrifices of men. We must foster an environment that encourages open conversations about the challenges they encounter, breaking the stigma that surrounds vulnerability in men.

Recognition and gratitude are fundamental human needs. A simple acknowledgement, a heartfelt “thank you,” can serve as a powerful affirmation for the sacrifices made. Society must take a collective step forward, acknowledging the multifaceted sacrifices of these men, not just on this dedicated day, but consistently and genuinely.

Moreover, the call to action on International Men’s Day is not just about recognition but also about systemic changes. We need to redefine masculinity in a way that allows men to embrace their vulnerabilities without fear of judgement. Creating support networks, both within communities and professionally, will provide a safe space for men to share their challenges and seek help when needed.

Additionally, workplaces and Government policies should evolve to accommodate the evolving roles of men in families. Flexibility in work hours, parental leaves, and support programs can significantly ease the burden and stress on men, allowing them to balance their professional and personal responsibilities more effectively.

In conclusion, it is imperative that as a world, we express our gratitude and understanding for the unseen sacrifices made by these men. Let us actively listen, support, and appreciate the fathers, breadwinners, and husbands who tirelessly strive to provide for their families. Together, let’s create a culture that honours and respects these contributions, fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society for everyone.

This International Men’s Day, let’s not just celebrate men, but commit to creating an environment where their sacrifices, emotions, and efforts are recognized, appreciated, and supported throughout the year. It’s time to redefine masculinity and create a world where everyone’s contributions are valued, seen, and appreciated.

Halima Layeni is the Founder, Life After Abuse Foundation