Since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, there have been tremendous advances in the rights and well-being of women and girls. We are still far from achieving equality between women and men, but by many measures—including health, education, political participation, and income— we are closer to it than we were 20 years ago. As envisioned in the Beijing Platform for Action, one critical piece for advancing the gender equality agenda is engaging men and boys. Beyond just the nominal or symbolic involvement of men, the Beijing framework envisions male engagement as a necessary means to challenge the structures, beliefs, practices, and institutions that sustain men’s aggregate privileges, as well as to address inequalities between women and men.
In this discussion paper, we seek to start a dialogue about moving forward with efforts that actively engage men and boys in challenging power dynamics in their own lives as well as in their communities and societies. To frame the discussion in this transformative approach to gender equality, this paper seeks to address the following questions:
- What are the linkages between gender, masculinities, and power?
- How do social and cultural norms about masculinities shape power relations and gender inequalities?
- How far has the global agenda developed since Beijing and Cairo, in terms of working with men as partners, advocates, and stakeholders in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment?
- How should we understand men’s responsibilities and potential contributions to the gender equality agenda?
- What policies and programs have been implemented to include men in a shared vision of gender equality and to transform prevalent notions of masculinities?
- What has been the result?
- What are the remaining challenges?
- What are the persistent challenges in engaging men in the gender equality agenda?
- What are key policy and strategy recommendations for moving forward?
This paper was prepared by the MenEngage Alliance in collaboration with UN Women. Support was also provided by UNFPA. The lead writer was Christine Ricardo, with input and guidance from Gary Barker, Promundo; Joni van de Sand, MenEngage; Giovanna Lauro, Promundo; Dean Peacock, Sonke Gender Justice; Lopa Banerjee, UN Women; Julien Pellaux, UN Women; Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA; and Ravi Verma, International Center for Research on Women. Comments were also received from the MenEngage Steering Committee and other UN Women staff. Many thanks as well to Lydia Alpizar, AWID; Marissa Billowitz, IPPF/WHR; Øystein Holter, University of Oslo; and Michael Kimmel, Stony Brook University. The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the MenEngage Alliance. Editorial support was provided by Nina Ford, Alexa Hassink, and Tatiana Elghossain, Promundo.