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MOBILIZING MEN BY EXPLORING WAYS EQUALITY BENEFITS ALL
Initiative offers insights on enlisting men as allies for women’s rights
13 February 2012 - “Men who abuse women misuse power,” says the
sticker on the back of a boda boda taxi in
These are issues being addressed – by taxi drivers, among others – in reflective and participatory sessions organized by the Mobilizing Men initiative, which is supported by UNFPA . The sessions, many of them held in institutional settings, aim to clarify the ways in which gender inequities harm men as well as women. The aim is to enlist men as staunch allies for women’s rights.
Despite their dominant roles and position of privilege in most
cultures, men and boys have lower life expectancies than women and experience
high rates of premature deaths from accidents, murder and suicide. They also
have high rates of work hazards in industries such as mining and manufacturing
and experience higher substance abuse than women, especially alcohol and
Rigid forms of masculinity deny men a full emotional range
Many physical and mental health problems relate to men’s adherence to gender norms that equate masculinity with toughness and suppressing one’s emotions, according to the report that documents the initiative. Under enormous pressure to be breadwinners, the can lose out on intimate connections with their children. Rigid notions of what it means to be a ‘man’ also contribute to risky behaviours, often starting at an early age. This perspective helps illustrate that challenging these values is good for women and men, girls and boys.
Challenging and changing harmful social norms about masculinity involves finding approaches to get men to stop and think about their attitudes, beliefs and actions – which can be so deeply embedded in societal institutions that it can be hard to see or untangle, according to the report.
“The innovation behind the Mobilizing Men initiative is that it takes a holistic approach to looking at the latent inequalities in institutional settings,” said Aminata Toure, Chief of the UNFPA Gender, Human Rights and Culture Branch. This kind of programme stems from the recognition that a genuine effort to end gender inequality will require addressing root causes. One critical way is to work with both women and men, in an attempt to achieve gender justice, she added.
Working with groups of men in three countries
The project, led by the Institute of Development Studies at
Toward this end, the partners recruited and developed teams of male activists to work with women on campaigns that could change policies and socio-cultural norms that enable gender-based violence in both subtle and obvious ways.
A full record of the programme’s work, including tools, stories and testimonies, as well as lessons used in the training, is now available in a new guide, ‘Mobilizing Men in Practice’. It includes examples from
Although still a pilot project, the initiative is getting results. For example in
Challenging the status quo
The participatory training first required the men to follow a self-reflective process to determine if they were actually willing to challenge the status quo of inequality between men and women. Not only did the process help them understand ways in which men benefit from patriarchal norms, but it also showed how they complied with it.
This approach opened up vistas for the participants. As Marcel Bahati, an activist in
Yet as the report suggests, learning new behaviours and methods of thinking that lead to full equality benefits everyone.
By the end of the training, the participants were ready to take action by following specific steps, such as identifying priority issues and creating a campaign to challenge the status quo of gender inequality.
At least one activist, a boda boda bicycle driver in