Men Must Experience Gender Equality to Be Able to Live It

‘The YP Foundation’s Know Your Body, Know Your Rights campaign is a youth led and -run peer education, capacity building and advocacy program that works with young people in communities and with policy makers to address gender equality, violence against women, sexual rights and reproductive health by focusing on the need for and implementation of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

Engaging boys and men in a system where they can experience equality, by getting them to work with young girls and women is very critical – and it is often taken for granted because most boys and men usually do not live outside of a patriarchal framework and usually experience gender equality as an ideal and concept, not a reality. The process has to be personal, for it to resonate with young men and boys. So the challenge is not just how they engage in gender justice and gender equality but also whether they have the tools to take this conversation home to challenge their own elders or caregivers. Often there is a backlash to this that needs to be taken into consideration.

Additionally, there is a lack of access to youth friendly health services. These services don’t exist at the ground level, or comprehensive sexuality education is not integrated. What young men and boys need is information, and this needs to be available freely in out of school, as well as in other community settings. Many young men have grown up being taught that it is wrong to admit they have fears or questions regarding their bodies.

Male participants in the training were initially most interested in factual/biological information (e.g., the human body, sex, HIV). Over time they found the sessions on gender-related attitudes, sexual violence, and power dynamics between men and women engaging.  When asked about the effects of participation, some of the young men noted that the sessions had changed their understanding of love, sexuality, and masculinity.

This series of posts about engaging men and boys in sexual and reproductive rights and health work is based on a speech that Ishita Chaudhry gave at the High Level Meeting on Youth at the United Nations in New York in July 2011.

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