UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

State of World Population 2005



© 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

The Formative Years

Reaching boys and young men early offers the greatest opportunity to instil gender equitable values. Boys who grow up around positive male role models are more likely to question gender inequities and harmful stereotypes.(39) There is also an urgency about addressing youth: Men ages 15 to 24 exhibit the riskiest behaviours relating to HIV transmission, including multiple sexual partners and injecting drug use.(40) Unfortunately, the typical school curriculum does not provide the opportunity for young people to learn relationship skills, discuss norms and peer pressure and raise doubts and questions.(41) In any case, reaching impoverished or marginalized adolescents boys who may have left school, but are at risk of HIV, drug abuse and violence, requires moving beyond the school setting.

Kenya's Chogoria Hospital's "Climbing to Manhood" programme takes advantage of traditional male rites of passage, and boys' heightened receptivity during this period of seclusion, to address sexual behaviours, drugs and relationships.(42) Masculinity at Play, a pilot programme initiated by the Pan American Health Organization, taps into the youthful enthusiasm of boys for sports. Soccer coaches in several Latin American countries have been trained to incorporate lessons about gender equity, adolescent rights and responsibilities and healthy lifestyles into soccer training for boys aged 8 to 12.(43) In Uganda, the African Youth Alliance reached over 500,000 young people in 2003 and 2004 with reproductive health and HIV prevention education and services. Its outreach activities proved especially effective for 10- to 14-yearold boys, who do not typically visit health facilities.

The Conscientizing Male Adolescents project in Nigeria, run by male community members, uses structured dialogues to encourage critical thinking in young men aged 14 to 20 who have demonstrated qualities of leadership. Discussion topics cover gender-based oppression and violence, power dynamics within the family, intimate relationships, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and democracy.(44)

In Egypt and India, the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), an international NGO, enables young men to challenge gender inequities while also expanding their options. Its programme works with young men through vocational training classes, remedial tutoring classes, gyms, clubs and other community organizations.(45)

Pioneered in Brazil, Programme H trains health and education professionals to work with groups of young men on violence prevention, paternity and sexual and reproductive health. The workshops encourage reflection on traditionally defined notions of masculinity and the adoption of more gender-equitable attitudes and practices. Programme H is being replicated with UNFPA support in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama and is also expanding to countries in Africa and Asia.(46)


In the context of the MDGs, national policies offer an important but commonly overlooked opportunity to take male perspectives and roles into account. Some countries have begun addressing men's roles in poverty reduction, gender equality and reproductive health through policy and legislative means.

Cambodia's policy on women, the girl child and STIs/HIV/AIDS calls for attention to men's roles. It states that "the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls can be slowed only if concrete changes are brought about in the sexual behaviour of men" and explicitly places it on the agenda for policymakers and service-providers.

Viet Nam's 2002 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper observes how few men are aware of their roles and responsibilities regarding family planning, and proposes policies to encourage male contraceptive use. Botswana's family planning policy places men first on a list of "special groups" and provides guidelines for catering to them as clients.

Many countries' youth policies are paying more attention to young men. Concerns about young Jamaican men, for instance, have led to an emphasis at the policy level on male education, male role models and fathering. Jamaica's 1994 National Youth Policy calls for promoting "gender equity and the transformation of societal norms and cultural practices of masculinity and femininity".

In general, developed and developing countries alike have paid only limited attention to supporting men's roles as fathers. In the past 20 years, however, policies and programmes in countries of Western Europe, North America and Australia have been adopted to encourage men's role as fathers, including paternity leave. Several Latin American countries have passed legislation obligating fathers to provide care and financial support for their children, though limited budgets and enforcement have restricted their effectiveness.

Costa Rica's innovative Law of Responsible Fatherhood passed in 2001 frames paternal obligations in terms of the right of children to know their parents and to be supported by them and, in so doing, removes some of the stigma for children born out of wedlock. The legislation, which established procedures for mothers to present legal claims and mandates genetic testing where paternity is in question, is credited with a drop in the number of children who are unrecognized by their fathers-from 29.3 per cent in 1999 to 7.8 per cent in 2003. The law also calls for sensitization campaigns, annual budgetary appropriations to cover the costs of DNA testing and the formulation of a national policy on the promotion of responsible fatherhood. See Sources

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