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Being a male ally: 5 pieces of advice I’d give to my younger self

Sunday 8th March marks International Women’s Day – a time when we celebrate the achievements of women worldwide, but also a time to note the barriers that half of the global population continue to face.

Now, you might ask: how does this affect you? Why would I – as a man – be interested in marking this occasion? Some men say that they’re marginalised and that women always get their own way.

So why should a man speak up for women? We all know women are perfectly capable of speaking up for themselves.

In fact, whilst speaking to friends and family about writing this post, someone did actually say:

Why are you writing about this? International Women’s Day is about empowering women and allowing them to use their voices, to speak up. It’s not about men speaking on behalf of women…!

It’s a common question. And yes, I did stop and think: am I going about this the right way?

I reflected on my decision to write this blog (albeit being asked by a woman in our team to do so!). And I came to the following conclusion:

I’m not speaking on behalf of women. I’m actually not speaking on behalf of anyone but myself. I’m on a journey. A journey to better understand the world. To improve myself.I’m not here to speak for women or over women. I’m here to be an ally. A side-kick. A supporter, an extra voice cheering on my sisters in faith and humanity.

And as a man, I need to be there to support my sisters.

Why? Because if us men don’t join in, then nothing will ever change. Because we need to change our outdated behaviours. Women have changed tremendously over the past few decades: men need to catch up!

We need to take a step back to allow women a (well-deserved) seat at the table. We need to listen to women.

We need to dismantle patriarchal structures which encourage men to hold power and women to be excluded. And we need to create a better society in which everyone is treated equally and fairly – regardless of their gender.

Yes, men need to be part of the movement too. Women shouldn’t have to do this alone.

So let’s amplify their voices and look at where we men can change things. And of course, this starts with ourselves.

Childhood reflections: Male privilege

As a teenager and well into my 20s, I was a fiery, carefree and somewhat reckless young man. I didn’t think about the rights of others.

Don’t get me wrong. I did care about the world and people. I’ve always been a friendly person. I look after those around me and have always taken an interest in the news.

But the thing is: I just didn’t think much about gender and equality.

I didn’t think about feminism and women’s rights. Of course, my upbringing ensured that I was taught to respect and love everyone regardless of their gender or background. But  living with my mother and sisters according to traditional gender norms gave me a certain privilege, purely because I was male.

I grew up with three older sisters, meaning that my brother and I learnt to respect women and girls. Yet at the same time, we were taken care of and nurtured by our sisters.

I know this sounds like a cliché – especially growing up in an Asian household. However, this was even more common growing up in the 80s and 90s.

For me, this had its advantages and disadvantages too. But, I didn’t think about what it meant for my sisters. It just seemed “the norm”.

I didn’t feel particularly privileged. Instead, words like “women’s rights”, “feminism” and “gender parity” just weren’t part of my vocabulary. What also wasn’t part of my life was doing my fair share of work at home!

As a result, I didn’t learn to iron clothes until very late in my twenties (or thirties even!). Nor did I know how to use a washing machine or how to cook for that matter. In our house, there was simply no need. My mum and sisters would do most of the household chores.

Now a married, more mature man, I’ve been reflecting on the past. Learning more about women’s rights and it’s made me think:

If I could go back in time, what advice would I give myself? How could I have done things differently? How can I be the best ally I can be?

And here’s what I came up with. Five crucial pieces of advice that’d I give to my former self to support women, and tackle gender-based inequality at the same time. Read on and find out how a man can be an amazing (male) ally in the fight for equality!


1. Take responsibility for yourself

We’re all individuals – whatever our gender. As such, it’s important that we take responsibility for ourselves first and foremost and not expect others to pick up the pieces.

The second Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab once famously said: “The wisest man is he who can account for his actions.” Self-reflection, or muhasaba as it’s known in Arabic, is the key!

We must take responsibility for our actions and words. This means owning up to your actions, even after you realise you have made a mistake. Remember failures are just ways of improving ourselves. This also means being willing to listen and learn from others.

So male allies: don’t be a “mansplainer” or excuse your behaviour. Talk and act for yourself, and listen to the women around you! Encourage their dreams and aspirations – don’t  just demand their time and their support. Support women too.


2. Don’t judge others

Breaking the mould, pushing past barriers and creating change is hard work. And it doesn’t help when others are judging you.

One of the most important things you can do – especially in this world of fast news and social media – is to not judge others. This includes women and girls who are living their lives and facing their own challenges.

Women face so many pressures and criticisms from all sides concerning everything from what they wear, where they work and who they make friends with.

Take for example the “debate” of being a working mum vs. a stay-at-home mum… Comments about wearing hijab or not wearing hijab… Women who wait till they’re in their 30s to have children…

Enough! Stop judging women for following their own path. It’s their life and their rights!


3. Avoid stereotypes

As individuals, it’s important to not stereotype people based on their gender. Gender-based stereotypes and generalisations are incredibly harmful.

I remember so many “jokes” about how “women are really bad drivers”.  Such comments, especially when we are young and surrounded by our peers, are easy to make and laugh about.  But they’re hurtful, unnecessary and often not true.

Sadly many stereotypical comments often go unnoticed and can even rear their ugly head at work, at school or at college. However, they judge women unfairly.

We must be more aware of our surroundings and words, especially ones which may have a detrimental effect on others. With the threat of online bullying, this is even more important.

So let’s remind ourselves of the boundaries. If you hear a sexist joke, politely remind others how inappropriate they are. Remember, Allah (SWT) stresses the importance of women. He even named a whole chapter of the Qur’an after them! Why would you mock women when Allah (SWT) commands us to respect them?


4. Nurture a sense of positive masculinity

I know these are big words and that they can be scary too! But change is for the benefit of both men and women.

Positive masculinity breaks down the notion that “men are strong” and “women are weak”. Let’s say it loud and clear: we are all human!

It’s ok to be a man and be proud of it – but not in a way that is detrimental to women.  Do things that you wish to aspire to in life, aspire to reach your dreams – but don’t push other people out in the process.

What’s more, sayings such as “men don’t cry” need to stop! I remember hearing this growing up. But here’s the thing: it’s ok to cry!

Reach out to Allah (SWT) and #BeKind to one another.


5. Bring people together

When we come together for a cause or a similar interest, you’re able to meet others from different background and beliefs. This then helps you to understand diverse views and build more inclusive spaces.

As Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an (49:13)

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

We need to close the gender gap. So let’s commit to building inclusive spaces, to bringing people together to create understanding and commonality and to celebrating diversity!

Tip: if you’re not sure how, we run some great volunteering programmes which unite people with a common cause!


We’re living in a time where sadly gender inequality still remains. With the #MeToo movement just one example of the ongoing struggles that women and girls face each and every day, we need to step up.

We need to reflect on our role in supporting women and girls, our behaviour and our words. Male allies are important. We can all create change and for things to really change, we need men on board too!

Every word and action counts! In fact, as part of International Women’s Day, I’ll be joining Islamic Relief on Care International UK’s March4Women (8th March) to demand gender equality.

Will you join me?

Stand up for gender justice. Sign up today!


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