How a lack of accountability undermines work involving men to address violence against women and girls

Feminist analysis and activism have been instrumental in achieving gains in women’s rights, including action to address violence against women and girls (VAWG). Over the past two decades, strong local, national and international women’s movements have brought VAWG, including in armed conflict and natural disasters, into the public domain as a development, public health, international peace and security and women’s rights issue.

Although the late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed positive developments regarding VAWG, many of these gains are now under threat. In many countries, we are witnessing the erosion of women’s human rights to live free from violence and exercise their full and equal rights in all domains; women’s rights organisations’ efforts to address VAWG face mounting challenges. Further evidence of this trend is the shrinking space for women’s movements and women’s rights work across local, national and global contexts.

This paper considers a specific concern linked to this trend: accountability to women and girls in the programming, policy and support of male involvement efforts to prevent and respond to VAWG. The paper discusses four practices that reduce accountability to women and girls, all of which result from a lack of feminist analysis: 1) investment in male involvement programming without demand or evidence; 2) male-dominated efforts that do not support women’s leadership; 3) shifts toward men’s priorities and needs; and 4) failure to transform patriarchy. The paper concludes with targeted recommendations for increased accountability to women and girls across VAWG prevention and response efforts.

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