Members of MenEngage Alliance attended the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) from 6 to 17 March at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, USA. Others, who could not attend in-person, engaged in this key international agenda-setting space via online channels.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the primary international forum for influencing the political agenda for the achievement of gender justice and the rights of all women, girls and gender non-conforming people. The theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women focussed on digital and technological change.
This theme provided a valuable forum for members of MenEngage Alliance to discuss and address issues related to digital and technological change from a critical ‘men and masculinities’ perspective. It was also a key moment for MenEngage Alliance and our members to stand in solidarity with the agendas of feminist women’s rights actors.
The Priority Theme of CSW67 was: Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Digital and technological innovations are an impediment to—and a tool towards—the achievement of gender justice and the rights of all women, girls and gender non-conforming people
This year’s theme highlighted that innovations in technology and the digital world can have both positive and negative impacts towards equity, women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, and gender justice.
Digital technologies have been used to marginalize, censor, and harass women, girls, and LGBTQI people. The issue is particularly severe for feminists, and human and environmental rights defenders. At the same time, digital spaces are contributing to, reinforcing, and shaping patriarchal masculinities by providing channels for misogynistic narratives and harmful misinformation to flourish. Moreover, harmful groups are able to use the anonymity and impunity provided by digital channels, to plan, organize and mobilize against women’s rights—both online and offline.
With this challenging context in mind, more than 50 MenEngage members traveled to New York for the session, with many more participating digitally.
Collectively and individually, we sought to add to feminist agendas by calling for gender transformative work with men and boys as an essential element to eliminating sexual and gender-based violence in the digital realm, and in mobilizing men and boys against anti-feminist actors and online misogynistic media and online groups.
Members of MenEngage Alliance stood together to hold governments to account for their national, regional and international commitments to the empowerment and human rights of all women, girls and people of diverse gender identities.
Key numbers from CSW67
7000 – More than 7,000 participants traveled to New York for CSW67.
4 – 4 heads of state and 116 government ministers attended in person.
205 – 205 official Side Events took place within the United Nations. Side Events take place within the UN, but on the sides of the official policy discussions taking place between Member States.
700 – There were more than 700 Parallel Events organized as part of the NGO CSW Forum. The NGO CSW Forum is a civil-society-organized space for grassroots movements and civil society to gather—and to influence the agenda.
4am – Tense political negotiations continued until 4am on the last day of CSW67. The session concluded with the successful adoption of the official Agreed Conclusions. The Agreed Conclusions is the document laying out the normative framework for the political commitments agreed to by UN Member States. (for various reasons, CSW does not always result in the successful adoption of Agreed Conclusions).
50 – More than 50 MenEngage members traveled to New York for the session, with many more participating digitally.
2019 – 2019 was the last year, prior to 2023, in which CSW took place in-person. While thousands traveled to New York for CSW67, many sessions continued to be organized virtually or in hybrid format.
Connecting as the MenEngage Alliance community at CSW67
Members of MenEngage Alliance were able to come together at CSW67 to build relationships across countries and continents and shape our shared agenda and strategies. This was primarily facilitated through three MenEngage Caucus meetings, including an Opening Caucus, a Youth Caucus and a Midpoint Caucus.
Our Caucus meetings at CSW are an opportunity for those members who are engaged in the space to have a dedicated moment to connect as part of the MenEngage Alliance community. This year, members strategized on our engagements to influence a gender transformative agenda on men and masculinities in accountable ways at CSW67. Members also reflected on challenges within the space, including rising anti-rights backlash.
MenEngage youth voices at CSW67
The CSW67 MenEngage Alliance Youth Caucus was anchored by Festus Kisa (in person) and Ange Marie Yvette (online), who are both members of the Youth Reference Group of MenEngage Alliance. The discussions included sharing about the Youth Reference Group and its mandate, sharing about the MenEngage Alliance Youth Strategy and the 2022-2023 annual work plan.
The youth members of MenEngage Alliance in attendance mapped some key strategies for engaging in CSW68. They also discussed the oral statement to be presented during the Interactive Youth Dialogue and discussed ways to remain connected and to broaden the engagements beyond CSW67.
Bringing a men and masculinities lens within the an intersectional feminist agenda
Members and partners of MenEngage Alliance organized and joined strategic events at CSW67, including both Parallel events organized through NGO CSW Forum, and Side Events within the UN itself.
These events, summarized below, provided an opportunity to partner with feminist voices, networks, and organizations to discuss the issues around transforming patriarchal masculinities and working with men and boys for gender justice.
Uprooting patriarchal masculinities from the digital spheres for gender justice
“The current digital landscape can be extremely discouraging at times, where cyber sexism seems to be the norm rather than the exception and more and more we’re witnessing coordinated organizing movements mostly to do with white supremacist misogynistic ideology that’s being created and fueled in these spaces.”
– Emilia Blancarte Jaber [she/her], Global Advocacy and Accountability Lead, Global Fund for Women.
This virtual session explored questions surrounding the rapid pace of change in digital and communications technologies with a ‘men and masculinities’ lens.
It asked how digital tools and spaces are reinforcing and shaping norms around patriarchal masculinities. And how misogynistic online spaces are forming an ecosystem of anti-feminist and anti-rights groups, spaces, and narratives—and what we can do about it.
Organized by the Global Secretariat and Global Advocacy Working Group of MenEngage Alliance, speakers included: Global Fund for Women, The Story Kitchen (Nepal), Let’s Breakthrough (India), Defensoras Digitales (#LeyOlimpia) (Mexico), Association for Progressive Communications (APC) (India)
Can ‘men and masculinities’ approaches support feminist systems change?
“This work should do no harm and it should prioritize accountability to women and girls. By ‘accountability’ we’re looking at if the work with men and boys is contributing to feminist system change, prioritizing the rights and needs of women and girls, and ensuring support for women’s leadership and decision-making processes across programs, advocacy strategies—and of course at policy level, at international, regional level and at the local levels.”
– Jennifer Chinoye Amadi, COFEM
This in-person session explored what makes a program with men and boys gender transformative. It delved into the critical question of why a shift in gendered power-relations is so difficult to achieve. With speakers from diverse contexts and experiences, the session looked at what we can learn from interventions around the world.
Organized and facilitated by the Global Secretariat of MenEngage and RWAMREC, speakers included: COFEM, Salama Lebanon, SASA! Raising Voices, Rwanda Men’s resource Centre (RWAMREC).
Participants heard from Fidele Rutayisire, Executive Director of RWAMREC in Rwanda, sharing the Bandebereho Program. The Bandebereho Program works with expectant fathers to challenge harmful norms associated with masculinity, to promote caregiving, male engagement in maternal health, and more equitable norms. By addressing unequal power relations through a gender transformative approach, the program has led to evidence of success in reducing intimate partner violence.
Lina Sabra, of Program Ra in Lebanon then shared about campaigns aimed at engaging men and boys in reducing and eliminating gender based violence. The campaigns presented were part of broader efforts towards the achievement of sexual and reproductive health and rights and comprehensive sexuality education. As well as developing campaign materials, the program trained young people, implemented clinics, provided services, and engaged men in family-planning.
Finally, participants at the event heard from Sara Siebert from SASA!, who discussed their strategy to focus on the level of the community as a whole—rather than singling out men and boys as a constituent group. Drawing upon evidence from randomized control trials, Sara shared some ‘key ingredients’ that SASA has noted for successful programming. These included: developing interventions based on a feminist analysis rooted in gendered power inequalities; taking steps to anticipate and minimize potential backlash; fostering internalized reflections on use of power; emphasizing the benefits of change; using a carefully phased approach; and working holistically—not just with men and boys but with communities and institutions.
‘Power on Patrol’ film screening and panel discussion on the making and unmaking of militarized masculinities in Afghanistan
Together with WILPF, and hosted by the Canadian Permanent Mission, MenEngage Alliance co-organized an event to screen the WILPF film, Power on Patrol. The documentary examines the ways that patriarchal norms around masculinity are intrinsically linked to violence, conflict, and militarism.
The film screening, and in the panel discussion that followed, provided a platform to unpack the root causes of violence and armed conflict. Panelists explored how the ‘war system’ is enmeshed with practices and representations of masculinity associated with power, violence and control.
The film includes the story of how some Afghani men, including Islamic faith leaders known as Ulemas, are working in solidarity with WILPF women activists to find a path to sustainable peace for Afghanistan.
Panelists included: Jamila Afghani, President WILPF Afghanistan; Hareer Hashim, Coordinator WILPF Afghanistan; Dr. Faramarz Jahanbeen, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; Dear Peacock, Director, Countering Militarized Masculinities, WILPF; Laxman Belbase Co-Director MenEngage Alliance
Feminist conundrums of Working with/on Men and Masculinities: Global Perspectives
Feminist activists, organizations and movements often discuss conundrums on the risks of work with men and boys. This session explored this topic amidst a backdrop of stalled progress on gender justice due to COVID19, rising anti-feminist backlash, and other concerning trends.
The panel consisted of feminist academics, researchers and practitioners, including MenEngage Alliance members. They reflected on the conundrums faced when working on men and masculinities, as well as pointed the way forward on how to imagine new ways of co-learning and engaging with masculinities.
Panelists included: Professor Andrea Cornwall, Professor of Global Development and Anthropology, King’s College London; Archana Dwivedi, Director of Nirantar Trust A Centre for Gender and Education, India; Bafana Khumalo, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa and co-chair of MenEngage Alliance; Ghida Anani, Executive Director of ABAAD, Lebanon; Mariagrazia Squicciarini, Director of. Social Policies and Chief of Executive Office, Social and Human Sciences Sector, UNESCO; Moderated by Sapna Kedia, Assistant Director of Gender and Social Development, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
Leveraging Technology-Based Approaches to Engage Boys and Men as Allies for Gender Equality
In this discussion, panelists explored how more equitable caregiving in the household can lead to more women participating in education around technology-based education and jobs. The panelists discussed the need to identify entry points that work on reducing structural inequalities that constrain boys and men’s abilities to be connected, caring, and equitable allies. They highlighted recommendations for practitioners, policymakers aimed at integrating technology and digital modalities to make more gender equal households.
Panelists included: Clara Alemann, Director of Programs at Equimundo; Dr. Taveeshi Gupta, Director of Research, Evaluation and Learning at Equimundo; Laxman Belbase, Co-Director of the Global Secretariat of MenEngage Alliance; Rachel Lehrer, Design Leader, Builder, Advisor, and Independent Freelancer; Satish Kumar Singh, Senior Advisor at Centre for Health and Social Justice; Sohini Bhattacharya CEO, Breakthrough India. The session was moderated by Shrinivas Rao, National Lead at Azad Foundation.