Working with Boys and Men
Initiatives aimed at ‘engaging men’ to address gender inequality have gained popularity in recent years. But how much do we really know about the most effective ways to engage men in gender equality?
I’m going to start with some points about men, patriarchy, and feminism which I hold to be self-evident. That is, some basic truths. And I will end with some harder questions.
So, this first section is “Engaging Men 101”.
Some truths I hold to be self-evident
To achieve gender equality, we’ll have to engage men.
To end patriarchy, to achieve gender equality, men will have to change. Putting this another way, we will have to engage men. Above all, because gender inequalities are sustained in large part by men – by men’s attitudes, behaviours, identities, and relations.
Patriarchy is about men – about male privilege, about men’s practices and relations, with women and perhaps more so with other men.
Men are members of a privileged group, and we receive various benefits and dividends whether or not we want to. We have an ethical responsibility, a political responsibility, to challenge and undermine this privilege, to change our own sexism and to challenge other men’s.
So, to put it far too simply, men are part of the problem, and men are part of the solution.
What are the best practices to promote men’s involvement in SRH while simultaneously promoting gender equality? This report argues that engaging men in SRH and gender equality can lead to better SRH outcomes for men and women, and prevent reinforcing male power over reproductive and sexual decision-making. A conceptual model that can be used for programming, monitoring and evaluation to engage men in SRH and gender equality including men as clients, partners and agents of positive change is provided.
The authors provide development, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and documentation guidelines to effectively adapt this model to one’s local context, which include the questions that should be asked, the solutions necessary, the types of actions that should be prioritised, and scenarios following the various levels of male involvement among individuals, groups and communities. The report also provides a range of activities that an organisation could use to engage men in SRH along components of the model, as well as who and what resources are needed to do so.
This resource is a guide for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and governments to support the review and updating of existing policies to ensure they fully engage men and boys in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV/AIDS.
There are many good reasons to engage men in building gender equality, especially given that some men’s practices, identities, and relations can sustain inequalities. The need to engage men can be particularly true in conflict and post-conflict societies, which often reinforce narrow views of masculinity and gender hierarchies. At the same time, involving men in gender-related policy and programming carries the risk of compromising resources and services directed exclusively to women or diluting the feminist orientation of such efforts.
The MenEngage Alliance, a global network of more than 630 organizations working with men and boys for women’s right and gender justice, has worked to enhance accountability in this field for some time, building on many years of work by women’s rights organizations. The MenEngage Alliance understands accountability as the commitment that activists and organizations working in the engaging boys and mend field must have toward women’s rights groups and other social justice movements.
Here is a handy, one-page guide to key activist and academic resources on men, masculinities, and gender.
It's available below, and in a downloadable Word document further below.