From March 31 through April 3, while the United Nations here in New York was abuzz with the Commission on Population and Development, the Global Symposium Engaging Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equity was meeting in Rio de Janiero.
The three overarching themes of the Symposium were:
Our partner Sonke Gender Justice Network was a member of the Steering Committee, and yesterday Sonke’s co-director Dean Peacock sent us the Declaration that was finalized at the meeting. Read the text or download the PDF here. It’s a pretty extensive document, and the meat of it is in the platform for action. My three favorites fall in the middle of the list:
Men as Caregivers: Societies expect women and girls to take responsibility for the care work that sustains and replenishes families, communities, economies and societies, including raising children and taking care of the sick and the elderly. This frequently prevents women and girls from accessing their fundamental human rights to health, education, employment and full political participation. Governments, civil society organisations, UN agencies, the private sector anddonor organisations must put in place strategies that shift gender norms and encourage men to share with women the joys and burdens of caring for others.
Sexual and Gender Diversities and Sexual Rights: There are profound diversities among men and boys in their sexual orientation and gender identities and relations. Formal and informal patterns of sexual injustice, homophobia, social exclusion and oppression throughout the world restrict men´s and boys’, women’s and girls’ access to human rights, health care, personal safety, and the recognition and affirmation of their intimate relations. Constructions of masculinity in many contexts are based on ruthless hostility to gendered sexual behaviours that contradict dominant patriarchal norms, and policed through heterosexist violence. Programming and policy engaging men and boys must recognize and affirm sexual diversity among women and girls and men and boys, and support the positive rights of men of all sexualities to sexual pleasure and well-being.
Men’s and Boys’ Gender Related Vulnerabilities: Men and boys die early from preventable diseases, accidents and violence. Most men have higher death rates for the same sicknesses that affect women. We need to promote health among boys and young men and enable them to acquire health seeking behaviours for themselves, as well as for their families. The emotional and subjective level and personal experience of men and boys has to be addressed to better understand the root problems like violence suicide, drug abuse, accidents and the lack of a health seeking behaviour. Though it is not often mentioned mental health dimensions are always present in other issues dealing with sexual and reproductive health, fathering and gender based violence. Gender responsive and socio-culturally sensitive mental health programs and services are needed to address and prevent these issues at community level.
To continue the work begun at the symposium, there’s a really excellent website where advocates can connect and work together on issues of gender equity. Fittingly enough, it’s called Men Engage.