When Men of Tomorrow (Moto) and Mibawa Television announced their intention to hold the first-ever ‘real’ men’s conference, mixed reactions erupted. To begin with, the men’s conference notion started as a punk among males under the guise of escaping giving their women a Valentine’s season treat. The bragging of the punk would be dragged until the Valentine’s Day fever died down.
But this year, around December, the two institutions announced plans on breathing life into the imaginary conference.
Mibawa Television managing director John Nthakomwa said they decided to partner Moto in what he called “a transformative and life-changing” event.
“This partnership is in line with Mibawa’s responsibility to support youth empowerment. We believe the event will have a positive impact on Malawian men and society at large by peddling a narrative that builds positive masculinities,” he said.
Despite some few noisemakers on social media, who tried to water down on the event, come February 12, Mibawa Multipurpose Hall was full with both young and old men, eager to take part in the event.
Against tradition, two female speakers Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Gender Community Development and Social Welfare and Nation on Sunday columnist Edith Gondwe were first to take the stage and boy, they opened the event with fire.
“Many of you here pay for services which you can get for free at home. Most of your side chicks make you feel like you are the best in bed because they want money from you. Open your eyes,” said Kaliati in her recorded address.
She further outlined how men can be good lovers, husbands and fathers in their homes in line with government’s gender policy.
“If you fall out of love and you want a divorce from your wives, do it according to the law. Many men are ill-treating their spouses during the divorce process,” said the minister, who later outlined the divorce process according to the laws of Malawi.
In her address, Gondwe, who was the only woman physically present during the conference, told the men’s gathering about what women expect in a relationship.
Speaking freely and confidently, Gondwe told the audience that first and foremost women want attention from their partners.
“If you do not give your partner attention, someone else will,” she said amid cheers from the audience who suggested that the likes of the trending Mustapha take advantage of neglected women.
Gondwe further told the delegates that women want a man who can provide financially, respect them and be their ‘number one cheer leader’ in public and private.
“No matter how wrong your partner is, never ever reprimand her in public. It is deeply disrespectful and many of you are fond of that,” said the Candid Talk columnist.
Another speaker at the conference, psychologist Dr Chiwoza Bandawe said men are more affected by mental disorders than women.
“According to statistics, men commit suicide more than women. Actually, 90 percent of all suicide cases are men,” he said.
Bandawe said one of the issues that lead to mental disorder in men are relationship challenges.
“Worldwide, every 40 seconds a suicide is committed, which is a clear indication that there is need to start taking mental health issues seriously in Malawi,” he explained.
On his part, Nthakomwa encouraged the delegates to share issues affecting their lives.
“This platform is meant to encourage open talking among men and voice out the thorns in society that trouble men, thereby reducing issues to do with ill mental health,” he said.
This writer also made a presentation on gender-based violence which detailed forms of gender-based violence (GBV) and its realities.
The presentation also touched on why men are silent on the GBV they face.
These include fear of being considered weak, bullied, and demeaned in the society.
Musician and entrepreneur Hayze Engola and Fashion designer Roy View Banda also made presentations during the conference.
The patrons were also treated to some music performances from Mibawa Band. The event was held under the theme ‘Addressing Gender Deficits and Promoting Positive Masculinity’.