Introduction to FEM
FEM – the Forum to Engage Men – is a network of individuals and organisations who came together in 2007, with the primary objective of working with men and boys to usher in a just and peaceful society. Alongside our shared efforts towards gender equity, many of us are active in fields as diverse as community development, public health, education and the arts. Professionally as well as personally, we have come to realise that it is critical to intervene in the area of masculinities for bringing about meaningful and durable changes in discriminatory practices in our respective fields of endeavour.
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Our Daily Reality
Violence against women, child abuse and gender-based discrimination are emerging as key areas of concerns in India. Declining sex ratio exists across the country, dowry continues unabated, child marriage is common and domestic violence, rape, child sex abuse and sexual harassment have now become part of our daily reality. The girl child faces discrimination in support, care and opportunities and this occurs across all social and economic groups.
Women’s empowerment has come into focus, and women and girls are now increasingly visible in public spaces and are speaking up, expressing themselves, and claiming their rightful space in society. However, increasing reporting of violence shows that the freedom of women is under threat. Instead of making our homes, offices, streets and public places secure, and putting injunctions on the way boys and men behave towards women, girls and women are being asked to stay at home, to dress conservatively, and face limitations of choices and even forego opportunities.
Making a Just World
Many of us feel that this ugly reality needs to change and that women and men are fundamentally equal in this world. There has been an increasing recognition that if our dream and aspiration of women’s empowerment has to be realised, it is necessary to work with men and boys. Our experience shows that social change and social transformation are not just developmental issues and people from all arenas- media, students and families have to be involved in the process of change.
With such a realisation, the Forum to Engage Men (FEM) emerged as a platform for discussion and a forum to commit to actions for change.
Our Core Beliefs
If gender equality is a shared vision for everyone in society – then men and boys must understand their patriarchal privileges and recognise the autonomy and rights of women. New modes of respectful interactions have to emerge between the genders, whether at home, in the community or at the workplace. New relationships based on mutual respect and interdependence have to replace those of authority and control. While patriarchy has created a gender system that distributes privileges to boys and men in a hierarchical order, it also isolates men from tenderness, yearning and camaraderie. It discriminates against girls and women as well as many ‘subaltern’ boys and men by deploying violence to perpetuate inequalities based on class, caste, sexual orientation, cultural difference and physical appearances. We believe FEM is a platform where men can jointly explore ways of challenging this gender order and hierarchy and move towards equitable relations and social justice.
Many of our members are women’s organizations and others who work on thematic issues like health or community development. There are state level FEM partners in Uttar Pradesh: MASVAW (Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women), in Maharashtra: Bapanchi Shala (School for Fathers), in M.P: Men’s Action for Equity (MAE) and in Jharkhand: FEM- Jharkhand. FEM members work closely with women’s networks in different states and at the national level. FEM is also allied with groups working on LGBTQ rights. FEM is associated with MenEngage, a global alliance of organisations working with men and boys for gender equality.
FEM’s activities are mostly implemented by partners at the local level and include community campaigns,advocacy on women’s rights and child rights. FEM also provides capacity building support to its members including opportunities for developing perspective and joint plans of actions through discussion and dialogues. At the national level, FEM runs an online communication platform which includes a listserv and a website with regional pages to enable sharing in regional languages by partners and grassroots activists.
FEM members of different states coordinate and participate in collective campaigns on gender issues like ‘16 days of activism against gender based violence’ and One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign – a global campaign calling for an end to violence against women, and for gender justice. FEM members have been taking an active part in rallies, outreach and other public events establishing the need for greater participation of men for eradication of discrimination. The FEM secretariat supports members to incorporate issues related to the involvement of men and boys in their ongoing activities and programmes.
FEM and the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium
FEM is associated with MenEngage Global Alliance and along with Centre for Health and Social Justice was a joint host of the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium 2014- Men and Boys for Gender Justice. FEM was amongst the organisers of the regional level symposiums held in different states as part of the Global Symposium. To take the idea of working with men and boys around the country, 6 regional symposiums were organised in different regions of the country and the discussions of these regional symposiums were taken to the global symposium held in Delhi, to ensure that the voices from the ground could reach the global arena. FEM members also carried out extensive mobilization and awareness raising on the need to involve men and understand masculinities as an important component in addressing gender discrimination and violence.
Come Join FEM
FEM is a process that will constantly evolve. The guiding principles of the network are inclusiveness, diversity, co-operation and democratic functioning. FEM will continue to facilitate mutual learning and sharing of resources and technical support, forging partnerships as well as shaping public opinion within the country and beyond We welcome all interested individuals and organisations to join FEM. We welcome members from different fields into FEM. College students can join us through Facebook and our listserv, and also form college level FEM groups. In short anyone and everyone who believes in gender equality and in the role of men and boys is welcome to FEM.