Critical dialogue on engaging men and boys in gender justice - Summary report
Work with men and boys for women’s rights and gender justice is receiving increasing attention from the international community, and is supported and implemented by many women’s rights and other social justice organizations. At the same time, however, a number of concerns and challenges have emerged, including the implications of this work for the rights and empowerment of women and girls, as well as its place among other social and economic justice issues, such as the rights and equality of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
The MenEngage Alliance, a global network of more than 630 organizations working with men and boys for women’s rights and gender justice, has worked to enhance accountability in this field for some time, building on many years of work by women’s-rights organizations.
The MenEngage Alliance understands accountability as the commitment that activists and organizations working in the engaging boys and men field must have toward women’s rights groups and other social justice movements. It also involves the responsibility to listen to, consult and partner equally with such groups, making sure that the work of engaging men and boys makes a real contribution to social justice and gender equality, rather than being a detraction from this struggle.1 The MenEngage Alliance is currently in the process of developing a dialogue and a mutual understanding of accountability, while acknowledging the different meanings that it has for different people and institutions.
To this end, from 19th - 21st April 2016 the MenEngage Alliance facilitated an online discussion of key constituents on a range of strategic and practical questions relating to engaging men and boys and transforming masculinities in the women’s rights and gender justice field. We invited participants working on engaging men and boys, and those working on women’s rights and empowerment from all corners of the globe to come together and share experiences, concerns, lessons learned and recommendations about partnership, accountability and transformative work in the field of engaging men and boys in gender justice. A total of 134 people from 41 countries registered for the event.
Day One focused on sharing positive experiences of collaboration and partnership, as well as emerging concerns and challenges experienced around working with men and boys in women’s rights and gender justice and approaches. Day Two took a deeper, more analytical approach to the key concepts of partnership, accountability and gender transformation and what these meant to participants. Day Three then focused on recommendations and ways forward, what we can do individually and together to advance the cause of women’s rights and gender justice and what we recommend to donors, governments and UN agencies. What resulted was a lively, thought provoking dialogue with over 100 contributions over the course of three days.
This report summarizes and shares the key discussion points, trends and recommendations that emerged from the dialogue. A number of themes are elaborated in this report, including accountability, power, privilege and patriarchy, intersectionality and men’s motivations for doing this work. It also explores how this work might become truly gender transformative by challenging structures and politicizing work with men and boys, building partnerships, addressing the question of funding, working both together and independently, working with faith leaders and with boys and young men, improving monitoring and evaluation and importantly, building networks for change.
The MenEngage Alliance would like to thank all those who participated and provided such rich, inspiring contributions. The experience helped us think more constructively about partnership, accountability and transformative work with men and boys. We hope it has inspired you too, and brought us all closer to a shared understanding and agenda for gender justice, as well as generating ideas for your own work in this area. We look forward to continuing the discussions and building partnerships in the coming months and years.