Development cooperation has an increasing focus on gender equality with the aim to improve women and girls’ disadvantaged position and status. The focus is mostly on women and girls as target groups, while gender mainstreaming is the commonly used strategy. What is often missing is the inter-relational lens of ender analysis; attention is confined to one sex. It ignores men and boys’ situation and their influence on and relations with women and girls, as sisters, mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends, partners or other. Furthermore, men’ roles and relations as co-workers, employers, service providers, community leaders, religious leaders also have important influences on women and girls’ lives.
There is a clear trend for a greater integration of men and boys in gender equality efforts in the development cooperation. Evidence shows that the involvement of supportive men and boys contributes to lasting socio-cultural changes in favour of gender equality. Supporting the trend is an accumulation of research and evidence-based interventions, as well as the growth of gender justice organisations that focus on men and boys. Nevertheless, the interventions are still to a large extent confined to small projects; mainstreaming in sector work is negligible and there is a clear need to improve indicators and results reporting.
Working with men and boys is not a ‘silver bullet’ for gender equality achievements. It is, though, an important part of the equation and one that needs more concentrated efforts. The current trend offers an opportunity to rethink a little and strategically integrate issues of male involvement and responsibility, where relevant, into the ‘gender equality agenda’. In this Development Trends a short background to work with men and boys is given, followed by examples of interventions in strategic sector areas. A discussion on the need for targeted interventions with men and boys is followed by overviews on current research and the international agendas. In conclusion, the trend in relation to future scenarios and its strengths and weaknesses in present approaches to gender equality with men and boys is discussed.