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UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

State of World Population 2005

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CHAPTER 6

© David Alan Haviv/VII
Man proudly displays his baby boy to onlookers in a village on Chacahua Island, Mexico.

Partnering with Boys and Men

-Men's Roles in Achieving the Millennium
Development Goals


-The Impact of Gender Roles on Men

-Reaching Out to Boys and Men

-Reinterpreting Masculinity

-The Formative Years

-Accelerating Progress

Reinterpreting Masculinity


The social pressures to perform and codes of honour that men and boys grow up with can encourage them to compete, resort to violence or take sexual risks to demonstrate their "manliness".(29) Taught to hide their fears and emotions, they may find it difficult to reveal their true feelings and concerns. Although such gender norms are often rigid and limiting, they are not static. Positive alternatives can be cultivated.(30) The notion of strength, for example, can lead to violent behaviour, but it can also find expression in resisting peer pressure or in protecting oneself and loved ones. Sometimes the way the message is framed can make a big difference: In several Latin American countries telling young men that they have the right to be involved in their children's lives has had a positive impact, whereas framing their involvement as a duty had the opposite effect.(31)

Research shows that many men in all parts of the world express an interest in supporting and becoming more involved in the reproductive health of their partners. But negative feedback from other men, family members and employers, and resistance by health providers, may prevent men from putting their interest into practice.(32) They may be uncomfortable with rigid gender norms, but unable to challenge them on their own, without the support of peers and a conducive social environment.

Some programmes have shown that with opportunities and encouragement men are motivated to adopt more equitable and healthful attitudes and behaviours.(33) For example, young men spontaneously formed pressure groups to oppose female genital mutilation/cutting as a result of a UNFPA-supported Reproductive, Educative and Community Health Project in Uganda, which was carried out in partnership with the Sabiny Elders Association.(34) At the National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi, nine out of 10 male members confessed that they were unable to disclose their HIV status to their wives. Following the establishment of support groups for young couples, fully 65 per cent of young men who were previously unable to admit they were HIV-positive brought their wives.(35) Also in Malawi, the Men for Gender Equality Network sponsors men's clubs that build awareness of gender equality issues. Viet Nam has entered into the territory of shared domestic responsibilities, with a campaign whose slogan is: "If you share housework with women, happiness will be doubled." (36)

The ReproSalud project implemented by Movimiento Manuela Ramos in Peru trained male educators to help men in poor and indigenous communities to think critically about gender norms and reproductive health. Their workshops demonstrated that men value the opportunity to discuss violence, alcoholism, sexuality and fatherhood and to contemplate living differently.(37) Significant behavioural changes were observed as well. Local health facilities reported dramatic increases in the use of services. One nearby hospital, for example, reported a 400 per cent increase in family planning visits within a year. Community members were enthusiastic about the changes brought about by this initiative.


"I'll be a different husband [from the way my father was]. I'll share domestic chores, support her outside the home, give her freedom. I won't tie her down."

- Victor, 25, group member of the Conscientizing Male Adolescents project, Nigeria


The Men as Partners programme, initiated by EngenderHealth in South Africa, seeks to curb the transmission of HIV through workshops, radio and Internet dialogues, involving frank discussions between men and women about gender norms and relationships. Workshops are often facilitated by men motivated by their own exposure to domestic violence and AIDS, and convinced of the need for change. EngenderHealth, which initiated the programme, has now broadened it through partnerships with other groups, such as the South Africa Men's Forum, and by another component that focuses on young men.(38)

The Formative Years >>
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