What works to engage men in achieving gender equality? This question has gained ground – and attention – in recent years, but do we know the answer?
Globally, ensuring that women reach parity in political positions, receive equal pay, and live lives free from violence has often been approached by instituting quotas, kick-starting economic empowerment programs, and working with survivors. What do these approaches have in common? Although much needed, they often put the onus of achieving equality back on the very individuals who may lack the position to gain ground.
How can we fully attain gender equality if we only call on half of the population?
When Men Change tells the story of the other half. The film follows four men who, whether by learning the power of equality, the strength in non-violence, or the joy of hands-on fatherhood, have each embraced change.
What do we need for this gender equality revolution to occur? What’s clear is that for both women and men, while grassroots change is powerful, by itself it will not be enough to correct widespread, global inequalities, such as women earning 24% less than men and doing 2.5 times more of the unpaid care work.
We need to:
1. Reach out early to boys with comprehensive sexuality education.
Women are responsible for approximately three-quarters of the world’s contraceptive use. We need to prepare men from an early age to take responsibility for family planning – and to educate men on consent, shared decision-making, and negotiation within relationships.
2. Welcome men to health services.
Men can be powerful allies and partners in maternal, newborn, and child health, supporting their partners to get the care that they need. However, health systems – which can sometimes be unsupportive or unprepared – often set barriers to men’s full participation.
3. Engage men in parent training.
Men are equally as wired for caregiving as women are, and for domestic work as well. But rigid, traditional gender norms often label men as “helpers” or “babysitters.” Getting men involved in hands-on caregiving and household tasks, like doing the laundry, holding the baby, and changing diapers can help to redistribute the burden of care.
4. Offer parental leave.
Although maternity leave policies are essential, offering them without non-transferable paid leave for fathers may inadvertently reinforce women’s role as the primary caregiver, perpetuating inequality at home and in the workplace.
5. Hold men accountable for violence.
Violence is not an acceptable form of conflict resolution – in public, or within the context of intimate relationships. One part of changing this norm – which leads to about one in three women experiencing violence in their lifetimes – is holding perpetrators accountable for their violence. In addition to preventing violence in the first place and offering support for those experiencing violence, this means mandating counseling and taking appropriate legal action for those who have used it.
6. Inspire men’s activism for change.
Women’s rights groups have been advocating for equality for many years, and men can be a valuable part of the movement. Whether advocating for equal pay, an end to violence, justice for rape survivors, or for safe abortion care, men’s voices can help strengthen the call for change.
When Men Change, produced by Promundo, illustrates what interventions have proven to be effective when engaging men and boys in advancing gender equality and preventing gender-based violence, from the health sector to the workplace.
This blog was authored by Alexa Hassink, Communications Officer and Program Associate, Promundo.