2nd MenEngage Global Symposium: “Gender Equality can only be achieved if men and boys are fully involved in the process”
New Delhi, 10 November, 2014: Global efforts to attain gender equality will remain unfulfilled unless men and boys become more fully engaged in the process, is one of the key messages emerging from a major international conference being held in New Delhi this week.
The Symposium is timely, as it concerns a number of issues that have recently been making headlines all over the world. The World Health Organization states that one in three women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner. Women also face significant pay disparities between genders, which frequently leave women trapped in poverty.
Dr. Abhijit Das, Director, Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), the host country partner, summed up the aspiration of the 2nd Global Symposium.
“Today, more than ever before there is both an urgency as well as an imperative for men to not just engage quietly when a crisis occurs but all the time, as publicly and as collectively as possible to bring about a critical shift in the public perception of men.
The time has come for a more caring male persona to assert itself, and for a global movement to emerge which will mainstream men’s role in gender issues through specific planning and policy initiatives.”
Over 1000 eminent researchers, practitioners, advocates, activists and representatives from governments and donors from more than 90 countries are taking part in the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium, which aims to explore how changing notions of masculinity can encourage greater involvement by men and boys in pursuit of gender equality, to the benefit of women and girls, and men and boys themselves.
“Gender has for far too long been defined as a ‘women’s issue’ and expressed in ways that suggest that for women to experience gains and improvements in gender related indicators, – whether that’s in health or equality or employment rights – somehow men must lose theirs,” said Dean Peacock, Director of Sonke Gender Justice, founding member and co-chair of the MenEngage alliance of 600 organisations.
If we are to achieve true gender equality, if we want to accelerate the pace of change, then we have to involve men. Engaging men and boys is an important strategy in advancing women’s rights and empowerment, resulting in more gender equitable societies which benefit the interests of women and girls and men and boys.”
Delegates at the Symposium are generally in agreement that the years of research and practical field work have provided ample evidence of which interventions work. The challenge now is to take these initiatives to scale, in a global movement for change.
“Over the past 20 years we have learned a lot about ways to effectively engage men and boys to redefine notions of masculinity and connect them up to ways of ending violence and promoting equality that are very effective, “ said Andrew Levack, Promundo’s Deputy Director, US Programs.
In order to create broader social change we have to move this from individualised interventions to broader social movements and global movements about ways men can fully realise their potential in making the world a better place.”
A range of thematic tracks will be examined during the four day meeting, including gender violence; sexuality and identity; social justice, peace building and inclusion; the role that gender plays in employment and poverty; and how changing notions of masculinity inform relationships, emotions and care-giving.
“The symposium also calls attention to gender inequalities among men, such as on the basis of race, class, age or sexual orientation and gender identity (gay, bisexual, transgender or queer)” adds Joni van de Sand, Co-Coordinator of the MenEngage Global Alliance. “What we (aim to) do is address the patriarchal power and privileges that some men have over others – and stimulate men to step up, for a world that is equal and just – for everyone.”
“Women account for 45% of the world’s workplace and those in work, on average earn between 10-30% less than men,” said Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo, and Co-chair of the MenEngage Alliance.
We cannot reduce or eliminate women’s poverty without involving men. Unless we can get men to support women’s full entry into the workplace by taking on their fair share of care work within the family, we are not going to achieve the illusory 50% share in terms of economic empowerment that women deserve.”
Governments can also play their part in improving women’s economic equality by introducing or increasing paid paternity leave, subsidised child care close to the workplace and incentives to encourage men to make greater contributions to their households.
The Symposium is expected to result in the release of a ‘Delhi Call to Action’, which will provide a roadmap to address the persisting gaps in addressing men’s roles in ensuring gender equality. It comes five years after the First Global Symposium, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2009.