Men as Change Agents for Gender Equality: Report on Policy Seminar June 2014

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In 2015, UN Women will undertake a review of progress made to date against the Beijing Platform for Action, a series of commitments made by governments in 1995 to improve the lives of women and girls.

The campaign for gender equality has a long history, and each wave of feminism has seen men join the fight to improve the lives of women and girls. However such men have been in the minority and it is time for change. 2015 sees the creation of a new post-2015 global development framework, and the rights of women and girls must be placed firmly at the heart of this framework.

As stated in a recent speech by UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the achievement of women’s rights is a human rights issue and equality is everyone’s business; we all have important roles to play in challenging cultural norms and stereotypes that limit us all and underpin violence against women and girls. We will not achieve equality without the engagement of men and boys, and we held this seminar to learn more about how government can work with organisations and institutions to increase the active involvement of men and boys in the gender equality campaign.

While there was disagreement in areas, particularly over how some issues are described and communicated, there was a clear shared consensus on three points:

  1. We cannot achieve gender equality without men
    Participants cited a number of ways in which men can actively promote gender equality: by taking parental leave, by sharing the double shift of childcare and housework, by challenging their peers and calling out sexist behaviours where they occur – in the street, in the workplace, and online - and by speaking about the ways in which gender inequality limits the opportunities of boys and men also.

  2. Men will also benefit from gender equality
    Men have a great deal to gain from gender equality. Restrictive gender roles and stereotypes harm men as well as women, boys as well as girls. For real change to happen, everybody has to acknowledge and understand that better for women means better for all.

  3. Engagement is not easy
    Engaging men as change agents for gender equality is not easy. But there are many men who listen, understand, and want to play their part. We must work with men to secure their involvement in making gender equality a reality.

This report discusses the three points above in greater detail and identifies some of the ways government is engaging with men and boys in the campaign for gender equality. Throughout this discussion, speakers repeatedly reinforced the importance of recognising the multiple and diverse experiences of individuals, and the impact of issues including race, sexual identity and sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic background on individual experiences. 

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