It is 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women and its adoption of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. For all of those who are committed to the visions of gender equality, human rights and social justice expressed in the Beijing Platform for Action and subsequent international declarations and agreements, 2020 was to have been a year of taking stock of progress made and debating priorities and strategies to advance towards these visions. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed such plans, laying bare the fault-lines of profound injustice and inequality, which determine who suffers and who prospers.
The gender dimensions of these fault-lines of injustice and inequalities are now well documented. But if the COVID-related crises of public health, economic recession and governance failures signal a critical juncture, threatening any progress that has been made toward gender equality, human rights and social justice, it is also true that such crises have been long in the making. In the face of these crises, feminist, LGBTQIA+, climate and social justice movements have been leading struggles for systemic change.
What it means to do feminist-informed and gender-transformative work with men and boys, in solidarity with broader gender justice movements, remains the key question facing the members of MenEngage Alliance, and our constituent networks, Global Secretariat and the Global Board. In light of the radical systems change agenda being advanced by gender justice movements, it is clear that any articulation of the meaning and practice of gender transformative work with men and boys on patriarchal masculinities must reflect on the political, economic and socio-cultural forces shaping gender hierarchies and relations of power more generally, and the opportunities and constraints produced by these forces.
In the discussion paper “Contexts and Challenges for Gender Transformative Work with Men and Boys” launched on the occasion of the MenEngage Ubuntu Symposium, these forces are briefly sketched, and their potential implications for the work of the Alliance members, partners and those involved in the work to engage men and boys in gender equality discussed.