Partnering with Boys and Men
-Men's Roles in Achieving the Millennium
-The Impact of Gender Roles on Men
-Reaching Out to Boys and Men
-The Formative Years
Reaching Out to Boys and Men
Spurred initially by the ICPD's call to involve men and then by the urgency of the AIDS epidemic, innovative projects have reached out to men in bars and brothels, in barbershops and truck stops, at sports fields and youth centres, in military barracks and police academies, in mosques and churches, and in classrooms and clinics.
They have addressed men in their roles as sons, fathers, husbands, sexual partners, elders, educators, health providers, journalists and policymakers. They have used comic books and rap music, Internet sites and hotlines, peer educators and group counsellors, games and theatre productions, radio and talk shows. Several countries are increasingly addressing men's parenting role.(22) Because men are more likely to listen to other men, projects have enlisted respected community figures from high-ranking political officials to religious leaders. Clerics in Saudi Arabia have banned fathers from forcing marriage on their daughters, traditional monks in Cambodia have spoken out on HIV prevention, and national and state officials in Brazil have encouraged men to help end violence against women.(23) In 2005, UNFPA organized a regional conference of Islamic associations from 17 African countries. Imams and other religious leaders adopted a declaration urging the promotion of women's rights and reproductive health as "indispensable to saving the lives of our sisters and daughters and to reducing poverty in Africa".(24)
"If you sell the image of a health
service as maternal-child care,
obviously a man will not go. He says to
himself, how am I going to go to a
service designed for women? I am not
pregnant. Obviously they will not go."
- Respondent in the UNFPA-sponsored study on men's perspectives in Nicaragua
These varied efforts reflect several approaches to working with men.(25) The most common and earliest approach focuses on men as clients and aims to make reproductive health information and services more accessible and attractive to men.(26) This includes overcoming the idea that reproductive health is a woman's concern and the fact that services are often designed for, or are, primarily used by women. Men often report shame in seeking health services and are likely to do so only as a last resort.(27)
The men as partners approach recognizes men's influence on reproductive health options and decisions (28) and encourages men and women to deal jointly with issues such as contraception, emergency plans for labour and delivery, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, and post-abortion counselling. This approach may go beyond reproductive health to engage men in wider issues, such as gender-based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting.
A third approach, emphasizing men as agents of positive change involves men more fully in promoting gender equality and social change. It offers men opportunities to reflect on their own history and experiences, to question gender attitudes and to recognize how gender inequities harm their partners and themselves.
Programmes working to involve men more effectively face a dilemma that raises ethical and human rights issues. Programmes that overlook existing power imbalances between men and women may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing inequities and male control over women's decisionmaking. This is especially critical in the area of reproductive health. This is why a clear and explicit gender-responsive approach is necessary in order to develop policies and programmes.