by Tapiwa Manyati
A total of 65 participants from across Africa attended the MenEngage Africa Regional Planning meeting. The meeting was held in Uganda, Kampala from 14 – 16 September 2011, and involved 13 MenEngage Africa country networks.
In early 2011, Sonke received funding to support the further scaling-up of MenEngage Africa’s work. Similar developments took place across the globe, providing evidence of the growing interest in work with men and boys, and the realization that men have an essential role to play in achieving gender equality and social justice.
This regional meeting sought to build on this momentum and brought together MenEngage Africa country networks, some key civil society partners, donors and UN agencies, to plan the future activities for MenEngage in sub-Saharan Africa. This meeting also provided a road map for increasing the scale, impact and sustainability of work over the next 2-3 years with men and boys on promoting gender equality, preventing GBV and sexual exploitation, and reducing the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS within the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
This meeting also looked at how best the MenEngage Africa network communications and information sharing can be strengthened, and looked particularly at introducing practical and comprehensive communication strategies to enable sharing of resources and impact stories through the MenEngage.org (www.menengage.org) website and the engagingmen.net (www.engagingmen.net) portal.
The report from the meeting can be viewed here.
Putting Youth involvement in the limelight
The issue of youth involvement for the enhancement of fair representation of all key sectors within the MenEngage alliance was also taken forward as the only way to having a strong and progressive network in gender transformation and human rights work. The African Charter states that young people are crucial in achieving social and behaviour change. The charter defines young people as every person between the ages of 15 and 35. In addition, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world (1995).
The Men Care – Global Fatherhood Campaign
With continued efforts in strengthening the Men Engage Africa work, this meeting also deliberated on MenCare – A Global Fatherhood Campaign – coordinated by Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice and the MenEngage Alliance, as an effort to promote men’s involvement as fathers and as caregivers.
The campaign seeks to provide support materials, messages, policy recommendations and research to encourage local MenEngage partners, NGOs, women’s rights organizations, governments and UN partners to implement campaign activities in their settings.
MenCare is conceived as a complement to global and local efforts to engage men and boys in ending violence against women and girls. Together with efforts like the White Ribbon Campaign, it is part of the MenEngage Alliance’s global vision to achieve equitable, non-violent relationships and caring visions of what it means to be men.
Official Opening and Welcome Remarks
This meeting was officially opened by the Uganda Commissioner for Gender representing the Ministry of Gender and Social Development. Ms Janet Jackson, the UNAIDS country representative , the Deputy Director of Sonke Mr Desmond Lesejane and Dr Lydia Mungherera, the Executive Director of Mama’s Club also gave their welcome remarks to the meeting.
In her speech, the secretary to the Minister of State for Gender highlighted that gender equality is key for the development of healthy relationships and non-violent societies. “Men need to be sensitised and engaged so that they become aware of the negative male behaviours and practices that perpetuate violence against women and children,” she said.
She also highlighted that gender equitable lifestyles can only be achieved if men and women constructively work in partnership to confront negative practices degrade women daily.
Ms Jackson expressed great appreciation to Sonke and the MenEngage Africa network for coming together to further deliberate and better plan in taking forward gender transformation work with boys and men across Africa.
“It’s a breakthrough particularly to see how committed individuals and networks are in taking forward gender transformation work in Africa especially working with men and boys for the promotion of gender equality,” she said.
Gender transformation work has been for a long time regarded as a women’s issue but it is also now a men’s issue and a human rights issue due to persistent unequal power relations. Men and women should work in partnership to address gender inequalities, gender-based violence, the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS, she added.
Mr Desmond Lesejane explicitly highlighted that, “Whatever we do, we do it in partnership in order to make the desired impact. Also we need to put our shoulders together and make our partnerships work towards a common agenda and purpose as a continent.”
He added that it is also equally important to collaborate with key gatekeepers including traditional and religious leaders to ensure that our work is sustained for the creation of gender equitable societies.
The meeting ended with the following key outputs:
- A clear understanding of MenEngage Africa’s work to date and future priorities,
- Strategies identified to implement the UNFPA Africa Regional Framework on Working with Men and Boys for the Promotion of Gender Equality and Reproductive Health at a regional and country level, and to strengthen collaboration between UNFPA and the MenEngage network,
- Plans agreed for taking forward the MenEngage Africa Training Initiative, and the 2010 regional consultation meeting with partners,
- Identification of common challenges and key technical assistance needs to be addressed,
- Successful launch of the MenEngage Africa Organisational Skills Audit; and
- Agreed outline of a three year MenEngage Africa operational plan (2012-2015)
The current co-ordinators of the attending country networks are CARE Burundi, Congo Men`s Network (DRC), MenKen (Kenya), Men for Gender Equality Now (Malawi), Forum Muhler/HOPEM (Mozambique), Lifeline/Childline (Namibia), The Rwandan Men’s Resource Centre, Men’s Association for Gender Equality (Sierra Leone), Sonke Gender Justice Network (South Africa), EngenderHealth (Tanzania), Raising Voices (Uganda), Zambia: Zambia National Women’s Lobby: Men’s Network; and Padare/ Men’s Forum on Gender (Zimbabwe).