While policies and laws alone cannot bring about long term and sustained social change in terms of achieving gender equality, they are a vital first step. Policy initiatives have the potential to lead to larger-scale changes in men’s behaviours and attitudes relating to gender and health, as well as the potential to challenge social norms and institutional cultures that continue to perpetuate inequalities and violence.
Both in Africa and globally, we are struggling to emerge from the shadow that patriarchy has cast on humankind. As part of the effort to do this, laws and policies have been developed around the world in order to protect women, children, and other vulnerable groups, against the possibility of being abused; facilitate women’s access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services; and to ensure that mothers are able to effectively care for their children without infringing on other rights, like the right to work.
Within policy, men have not often been identified as potential players in the solution to these challenges, but have rather been treated as part of the problem. Evidence has shown however, that if men are engaged in HIV and GBV prevention efforts, the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and involved parenting, there are great benefits for women, children and men themselves. Many men are already involved in these ways, but in order for widespread changes to take place, the engagement of men at policy level must be addressed.
In light of this, MenEngage undertook, and has almost completed, a scan of policies, laws and plans from thirteen African countries, focusing on the areas of HIV and AIDS; Gender-Based Violence (GBV); Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR); and parenting. The scan assesses the extent to which the policies contain language relating to the proactive and progressive engagement of men and boys across these critical areas for gender equality.
Sonke has undertaken this policy scan on behalf of MenEngage Africa, and in collaboration with MenEngage partners and UNDP country offices, and with the support of UNDP. The thirteen countries which form part of the analysis are Burundi, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The scan has been carried out in response to the need for a shared policy agenda on engaging men among civil society, and national and regional policy makers. This is central to scaling up this work and achieving large-scale changes in gender norms.
Policy reports have been produced that highlight the key findings and recommendations of the analysis. Reports have been written for Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. The reports will be used as advocacy and programming tools, to strengthen a focus on engaging men for gender equality within national laws and policies, and will be published by the end of the year. The reports’ key audiences are national and regional civil society, policy makers and decision-makers. The overall scan of the thirteen countries is nearing completion and Sonke intends to expand the scan to include more countries and to produce further policy reports.
Watch this space!
By Hayley Thomson and Londi Gamedze