Engaging Men and Boys as Partners in Creating Gender Equality

9 March 2010
Author: UNFPA
The portrait of a father and son from EI Salvador is one of 38 images depicting positive in the "Influential Men Photography Exhibit".

UNITED NATIONS — Because men wield much of social, political and economic power in many poor and developing countries, achieving gender equality and reducing violence against women will demand their active participation and cooperation. That message was emphasized at a panel discussion “Boys and Men: Partners in Gender Equality” organized by the UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF in conjunction with the 54th Commission on the Status of Women.

The panelists included advocates, activists and civil society workers from different parts of the world, all of whom had years of experience working at the grass-roots level with boys and young adults. They relayed their experiences and personal stories about how educating boys in gender equality from a young age can make a difference in attitudes towards women throughout their lives.

“We acquire our gender from our environment, through interaction with our world. This all happens intensely when you are young, how you are treated, and what is expected of you,” said Michael Kaufman co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the world’s largest network of men working to end violence against women. Mr. Kaufman explained that boys are often raised through humiliation, and often taught to repress their emotions, causing an inability to empathize. He called for policies and programmes that would work with fathers, teachers, religious leaders and young children to cultivate empathy and gender sensitivity among boys.

Compelling evidence shows that working with boys and men is remarkable effective in reducing violence against children and women, according to Christine Ricardo, co-executive Director of Promundo, a Brazilian NGO. Statistics and data are being collected through the organization to substantiate this finding.

Aminata Toure, a gender adviser from UNFPA, noted that in some places, boys are falling behind educationally, and pointed to the need for programming to address their needs. “If we want social justice, men should also gain something from this struggle,” she said. But she maintained, and as was echoed throughout the panel, one of the main goals of constructive engagement of men and boys is to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is not about perpetuating a dependency on men and boys, but expecting them to play positive roles in the lives of women and girls, which will also lead to fulfilling their own needs.

She noted that constructive engagement of men and boys is not aimed at perpetuating a dependency on men and boys, but rather to encourage them to play positive roles in the lives of women and girls, which will also lead to fulfilling their own needs.

Population : 212.4 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 80%
Girls 84%