Aid sector abuse revelations have shown it’s time for a deep reflection and overhaul in all sectors – including ours

MenEngage Alliance Response

16 May 2018

As the #MeToo movement has brought to light rampant sexual violence by men and the culture of impunity across various sectors, from the film industry to politics to business, it is deeply concerning – although quite frankly not surprising – that such harassment and abuse are also present within the aid sector. As Daniela Ligiero, CEO of Together for Girls remarked “It’s not that women hadn’t been telling their stories. It’s that no one has listened before.”

As MenEngage Alliance – a membership-based network offering a platform for critical debate on masculinities and the roles of men and boys in promoting women’s rights and gender justice – we find it important to turn the focus from the experiences of women and some men who have been harassed, to the men who harass and the environments that allow or encourage men to harass. We have called on other men to hold their peers, family members, colleagues and bosses, team-mates and coaches, to account. We encourage men and boys to examine their own behaviors in terms of harassing women, girls, gender non-confirming individuals or other men; and to examine the ways that men support environments that are conducive to harassment and violence.

In addition to critiquing the behaviors of individual men and boys, we also have to examine the systems that enable these behaviors, which are rooted in unequal power dynamics. Sexual harassment is not solely about male dominance and the objectification of women. It often involves intersections of multiple identities that exacerbate sexual harassment, including age-based sexual harassment, racist and classist sexual harassment, among others. These are the societal conditions that MenEngage Alliance works to challenge and transform, and it is clear this work is as needed in our own sector as in any other.

The #MeToo movement and aid sector revelations have sparked critical conversations among our network on how best to respond to and prevent sexual harassment and violence. Within MenEngage Global Alliance we assessed the adequacy of our existing policies to prevent instances of sexual violence and respond effectively should these occur. We have come to the realization that despite one of our core principles being ‘zero tolerance against any form of sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation’, we need to strengthen internal policies and lay out a proper response mechanism for the effective handling of cases should they occur.

Therefore, we are currently developing comprehensive internal policies and mechanisms on preventing and responding to all types of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation. We strive to prevent all harm and promote equitable and respectful interactions among those within our organizations and with the communities we engage with. We are committed to fight against impunity because no sexual misconduct should be ignored or minimized, and no perpetrator should be justified or protected, no matter how good of a reputation the person in question may have. We want to lead by example, ensuring accountable practices towards survivors of violence and people affected by sexual violence, while also protecting the integrity and reputation of the Alliance.

Simply having formal policies and mechanisms is not enough. We need to go beyond one-off gender trainings and engage in ongoing self-reflection on our own privileges and attitudes regarding gender and power. This is a critical moment for every individual and every institution to reflect on their practices to ensure that such events do not occur and ensure there are proper institutional mechanisms to handle these cases in the most effective and efficient manner. Starting from the top levels of leadership, there must be a commitment to create institutional cultures and work environments that promote gender justice.

We encourage all organizations to conduct regular gender analysis and assessments, informed by feminist principles and expertise. The cultural shift that is needed will not be fully realized if men and boys are not engaged in this process. Men and boys need to step up and take responsibility for their own behavior and call out that of other men and boys – at all levels. And we need to continue seeing, hearing, believing and supporting women and girls, women’s empowerment, and the upholding of women’s rights. These comprehensive approaches are crucial to ensure a fundamental transformation of stereotypical gender norms, attitudes and laws that are at the root of sexual harassment and abuse.

Please keep a look-out in the coming period for MenEngage Alliance’s updated policies and mechanisms on preventing and responding to all forms of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation. In the meantime, kindly share policies and other materials that you think are good and can inform the one we are currently developing for the Alliance. Once the updated policies and mechanisms are shared, we hope they will in turn inspire and inform yours.

In solidarity,

MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat