As the Millennium Development Goals come to a close and members of the international community continue their efforts to influence the Post-2015 Development Agenda, MenEngage is paying close attention to the deliberations of the Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly, which is tasked with preparing a proposal on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Meeting at the beginning of May 2014 for their eleventh session (third of five sessions in the OWG’s second phase), the OWG continued its consultations on preferred SDGs and targets. As a result, they have now issued a working draft and we are pleased to see that under gender equality they cite the need to “fully engage men and boys in efforts to promote and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” Beyond this general sentiment, we find that that the statements made by Member State representatives of the OWG in their recent meeting certainly shine a light on where different countries stand on the issues that our network cares most about.
We are releasing this statement ahead of the next OWG session (16-20 June 2014) to showcase the countries that are standing up for gender equality:
We commend Colombia and Guatemala who have shown a very progressive understanding of the link between unpaid care work, equal employment opportunities and equal pay for women. MenEngage believes that men’s contribution to caregiving and unpaid domestic work provides a tangible opportunity to create a more equal world. Women and girls carry out a disproportionate share of care-related activities worldwide, including domestic work and childcare, thus limiting their potential to earn income, and perpetuating income and social inequalities between men and women. Spain (also speaking for Italy and Turkey) have all emphasized promoting shared responsibility for unpaid care work, which we view as critical to achieving gender equality. Brazil has gone further, calling for an equal sharing of unpaid work by 2030.
Slovenia and Montenegro have spoken more broadly about the need for boys and men to take part in eliminating discrimination. We wholeheartedly agree with this call. To achieve gender equality, it is essential to work with men and boys due to the fact that women’s lives and men’s lives are intertwined. We have a shared responsibility to work towards transforming oppressive gender systems. Furthermore, we are very excited about the call from Switzerland, France, Portugal and Germany to add a new target on the engagement of men and boys in promoting gender equality. We view this as integral to the new global Post-2015 Development Agenda, and in particular to maintaining global momentum on addressing gender inequalities, strengthening human rights, promoting women’s empowerment and leadership, and improving the health and wellbeing of all humans.
Among other nations, the United States, Sweden, Poland and Israel have expressed support for universal sexual and reproductive health. We agree with the need for this critical area, but also believe that the engagement of men and boys is critical in reaching such a goal. Throughout the world, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is largely considered the sole responsibility of women, while many men continue to neglect their own SRH needs and responsibilities and those of their partners, and their families. Interventions with men and boys on SRH have been shown to effectively increase men’s utilization of health services, as well as their support and respect for their partner’s SRH, which in turn improves the health of women, children and men themselves.
We also echo the call of many Member States that we must bring an end to gender-based violence (GBV), an area where the involvement of men is crucial. Although not all men are perpetrators of violence, evidence points out that the majority of GBV incidents are perpetrated by men. Gender norms socialize men to respond to conflict with violence, to abuse alcohol, and to dominate their partners. Studies reveal that the strongest factor associated with men’s use of violence against women and girls is having witnessed their own fathers perpetrating GBV. Gender inequalities, such as GBV, are rooted in culture and institutions. Therefore, we must address the social norms, practices, and stereotypes which perpetuate discrimination against women and girls, promoting alternative role models for boys so that we can make great strides over the life of the Post-2015 SDGs.
We commend the OWG for its work, and for fostering such fruitful deliberations. We look forward to their next session.
For more information about our position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, please see the MenEngage suggested targets and indicators within a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment.