“The final phase of feminism is getting men involved.”

Photo Credit: Promundo: "A Father's Vision of Fatherhood"
Photo Credit: Promundo: “A Father’s Vision of Fatherhood”

This statement is upheld by Bonnie Érbe, host of women’s news analysis program, To the Contrary. She promotes the notion that if men and women are ever to reach gender parity, men must also get on board.

Érbe’s statement has been explored in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many of which are affected by gangs, police, and militia. Despite the Maria da Penha Law enacted in 2006 by the Brazilian government in efforts to criminalize rape and domestic violence against women, rates of various forms of violence against women in the favelas remains high.

Although the government has made impressive strides in rolling out services for women affected by violence, there is much that remains to be done. According to a study on gender-based violence (GBV) published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research, it was reported that between 2009 and 2011, Brazil registered nearly six murders for every 100,000 women.

In a culture where dominance is established by the size of your gun, how do you bring men from violent upbringing on board with gender equality, the value of family and caregiving, and community empowerment?

How can one begin to see men as fathers, and no longer as threats?

These are exactly the questions that Gary Barker, founder and director of the international NGO Promundo, hopes to answer. With headquarters in Brazil and offices in Rwanda, Burundi, the United States, and Portugal, Promundo helps men around the world to realize the strength in non-violence and the power in equality.

By way of its effective programs, Promundo works with community leaders and key stakeholders to improve Rio’s favelas, reversing high rates of certain forms of violence there by expanding intervention for men and creating a space for them to discuss gender equality, health promotion, and violence prevention.

The organization ingeniously attracts young men to the intervention workshops by offering them opportunities to participate in local soccer games on the weekend. It is within these intervention discussions that men discover the deep-rooted issues which stem from the homes in which they grew up, including absent or abusive fathers, alcoholism, spousal abuse, or neglect.

Photo Credit: Promundo, "A Father's Vision of Fatherhood"
Photo Credit: Promundo, “A Father’s Vision of Fatherhood”

After engaging in intervention workshops, Promundo has seen change occur in the lives of Rio’s men. The programs promote men’s practices as gender-equitable caregivers, and in the process, these men begin to see the positive influence of driving down discrimination against women in their communities. The men learned how to value reproductive and maternal health, as well as practices of fatherhood and caring for their families.

Last week at the Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square on Gender at the NYU campus in Washington, DC, Barker admitted that this method did not come out of sole ingenuity. He stated that after watching interventions run into wall after wall, he and his colleagues realized that education, income generation, and instructional teaching alone would not produce the progress in gender equality for men from violent backgrounds.  It was in this place of desperate realization that Promundo tapped into the emotional aspect of caregiving by men. As supported by an article published by Promundo,

“The more the fathers get themselves involved in and share care and house work, the more economic emancipation of women progresses; the more fathers get themselves involved in the care tasks for their children, the more maternal health indicators improve; the earlier and the more intensely fathers become present in children’s lives, the more child development indicators get better; the higher men’s involvement is in the care for their children, the lower violence against women and children.”

Girls’ Globe continually advocates for and raises awareness about maternal and child health. For poor neighborhoods like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and in many communities, Érbe’s claim about feminism is true. If we care about improving women’s reproductive and maternal health, then we must remember the factors that influence their health. We must get men involved in order to transform communities with high rates of violence into environments that foster safety and care for women and children.

To hear more stories of men and families transformed in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, look out for the premiere of the documentary, “Becoming Papa,” featured on PBS’ To the Contrary coming out this May.

Follow these links to find out more!
Living Peace: Men Beyond War

 Cover Photo Credit: Promundo, “A Father’s Vision of Fatherhood”

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