‘Strengthening the Field of Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Justice’: A MenEngage Alliance report

Dear colleagues and friends,

We are pleased to share with you the attached report from the State of the Field Consultation “Strengthening the Field of Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Justice” organized by MenEngage Alliance on 20 June 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.

The consultation, kindly hosted by Sida, aimed at collecting key stakeholders’ inputs to inform the development of MenEngage Alliance’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2020. It provided an opportunity for civil society experts – including Alliance members across the regions, practitioners and researchers, government partners, and UN Agencies to reflect on the progress made in the field of transforming masculinities and engaging men and boys as part of the joint agenda on women’s rights and gender justice for all; to share practical experiences and lessons learned; and to collectively strategize on ways forward.

Some common messages that emerged from the event which are relevant for our broader field of work: 

  • Engaging men and boys in women’s rights and gender justice has gained considerable attention and recognition in recent years. It is increasingly on the global agenda and a range of promising programmes and initiatives have emerged, that can support uptake of gender-transformative work with men and boys elsewhere, through contextualized interventions.
  • The focus of the MenEngage Alliance and the broader field of engaging men and boys has shifted from the ‘why’ to the ‘how’, and on doing this work in qualitatively sound ways. With the expansion of the work there is an urgent need to ensure engaging men and boys’ work is done according to feminist principles and a gender-transformative approach. In order to do this, continued dialogue and collaboration with women’s right’s movements in essential.
  • The gender justice field is seeing its spaces and resources diminish. Stronger partnerships, and joint advocacy and initiatives are needed in order to combat this. In particular, we must ensure that work with men and boys is not diverting funding from women’s rights work, and we have to work together to advocate for increased funding for gender justice work.
  • There is an urgent need to confront the growing backlash against gender justice, including by “men’s rights” groups, in an organized and strategic way.
  • A strong, global movement is needed in the face of shrinking spaces and resources and increasing backlash. This movement should embrace diversity as a strength and connect with other social justice, environmental and human rights movements.
  • The field of work with engaging men and boys needs to strengthen its political focus, by working to challenge unequal and unjust power structures, and through a human right’s framework.
  • Work with men and boys must take a more intersectional approach, and should incorporate a stronger focus on LGBTQI rights.
  • Active youth participation and engagement is needed to ensure greater leadership for sustainable change, including to combat the rise in violent extremisms.
  • More long term research and evaluation is needed to strengthen the evidence base for transforming masculinities and engaging men and boys in gender justice.
  • More opportunities and spaces are needed for mutual learning, sharing promising practices and network building.

Some key recommendations emerging from the consultation for MenEngage Alliance include: 

  • Increasing focus on promoting accountability: MenEngage Alliance has a key role to play in addressing the concerns that have emerged around the growing attention to the field of engaging men and boys, including questions of funding, and ensuring work to engage men and boys is informed by feminist principles and a transformative agenda.
  • Deepening partnerships and joint actions: The MenEngage Alliance must deepen partnerships and joint actions with key actors in the gender justice field such as women’s rights organizations, UN agencies and global leaders within the alliance from key constituencies such as youth and LGBTQI groups.
  • Building a vibrant and interconnected network: MenEngage Alliance should prioritize facilitating exchange, network building and joint action between and among its regional and country networks. The Alliance has a key convening role to play in bringing stakeholders together, online and in-person and create spaces for mutual learning.
  • Strengthening joint advocacy: MenEngage Alliance needs to develop a cohesive advocacy strategy and agenda and strengthen advocacy capacities at all levels. The Alliance has an important role to play in implementing global level advocacy, and contributing to the global discourse by adding a men and masculinities lens to gender and social justice issues – including through Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Facilitating a flow of communication from local to regional to global levels: The communications strategy of the Alliance in the next strategic period should aim to showcase members work and amplify their voices, and the website could serve as the online hub for the community of practice on men and masculinities.
  • Serving as a knowledge hub for the engaging boys and men field: The Alliance can play an important role in the collection, packaging and dissemination of knowledge and information, in an effective way.
  • Work through priority issues: The Alliance should continue working through – but not be limited to – its priority issues of prevention of gender-based violence (GBV), advancing SRHR for all, redistribution of unpaid care, and peace and security – while also taking into consideration emerging issues, such as climate change and faith based work, based on the priorities of its members.
  • Strengthening meaningful youth participation: The Alliance must work, at all levels, to deepen its work with youth focused and led organizations, and to ensure meaningful participation of youth in its networks and in global level advocacy.

MenEngage Alliance would like to thank all participants for a very constructive consultation. The joint analysis and your recommendations are extremely valuable and served as barometers at our strategic planning meeting, organised the days after the event in Sweden. We are working to integrate the inputs from this consultation into the MenEngage Alliance’s Theory of Change and next Strategic Plan, which will be shared early next year.