As a new research fellow at Women Thrive, I am interested in how best to engage men and boys in gender equality. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing an informational series to share my findings from online sources and conversations with members of Women Thrive’s Alliance for Women’s Solutions in order to produce a research project with recommendations on how best to engage men and boys.
To get started, I completed a literature review of sources from the World Bank, United Nations, MenEngage, and Promundo, to name a few. Although development practitioners are increasingly interested in understanding the link between men and boys’ engagement in advocacy and gender equality, research on how men and boys’ active engagement can help win the battle against gender inequalities is still rare. Research has yet to tackle what their contributions to collective advocacy for gender equality are—or should be. I’ve had a tough time finding information about what direct impact men and boy’s advocacy has on women’s empowerment programs and what the experience is like for male advocates of gender issues.
So, what do we know? There are a host of reasons why men do not become advocates for gender equality. The U.N. report The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality details the many constraints that stand in the way of men becoming gender equality advocates—namely social and cultural norms that create a privileged position for men. The benefits men reap from this privilege in the home and in their professional lives make men unlikely to become advocates for equality. But male advocates do exist, and many get involved because gender equality is about both women and men. As one male member of Women Thrive’s Alliance for Women’s Solutions answered in our annual winter survey, “Gender issues also encompass boys, because when it comes to early marriages, young boys are also forced into marriage as well.”
Men can be important champions for preventing gender inequality. As another member wrote, “(We) engage men in advocacy for women’s rights if they are credible public personalities, have powerful position on decision making, are well educated and understand equality and human rights”.
This is just the start. Next, I will reach out to a diverse assortment of partners, both men and women from Women Thrive’s Alliance for Women’s Solutions, to better understand what experiences they have had engaging men and boys, and what it is like to be a male gender-equality advocate.
Please stay tuned to read more from this series as we explore lessons learned from our partners!