Call for the mainstreaming of men’s role in gender issues
New Delhi, 10 January, 2014: A spirit of collective resolve and quiet celebration marked the inaugural ceremony of the four day 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium with Ms. Phumzile Miambo Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women, stressing that “engaging men and boys is a must” for “advancing women’s rights and equality.”
The highpoint of the Curtain Raiser, which was anchored by the Country Host Chair, Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation of India, was the rare display of solidarity and involvement of a cross-section of young people of the city. “In the last one year men and women, boys and girls from a cross section of society from auto-drivers to students to those living in clusters and far flung colonies came together not only to provide solidarity but to initiate a searcher for alternatives deeper inner transformation within themselves and people around,” added Amitabh Behar
This key message was reinforced by a galaxy of speakers that included the noted actor and activist Rahul Bose, who urged both men and women to shed all “burdens of patriarchy and practice a new masculinity which will enable men to walk side by side with women in the quest for a more peaceful, more meaningful existence.”
The four day Symposium, which is being attended by over a thousand delegates from 94 Countries, including 40 from Pakistan, will focus on sharing experiences and learning on ways in which men can be effectively engaged in redefining notions of masculinity, end violence and promote health and wellbeing. it will also deliberate on a number of issues ranging from gender based violence to the glaring pay disparities between genders, which have been making headlines across the world in recent days.
Other notable speakers were Ms. Remmy Shawa, member of the high level group on the Commitment to Youth Sexuality in Eastern and Southern Africa; Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women. Mr. Tariq-ul-Islam, Secretary, Bangladesh Department of Women and Child Affairs, Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA, and Ms. Nandita Shah, co-Director, Akshara.
Speaking on the importance of exploring how changing notions of masculinity can encourage greater involvement by men and boys in the pursuit of gender equality, Mr. Dean Peacock, Director of Sonke Gender Justice, which is part of the MenEngage alliance of 600 organisations, emphasized that gender has for far too long been defined as a women’s issue. Taking this further, he pointed out that, “Gender equality is not about women versus men or of women having to score points over men. It needs to get expressed in ways that suggest that for women to experience gains and improvements in gender related indicators, whether that’s in health or equality or employment rights - somehow men must lose their rights,”
Mr. Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo, and Co-chair of the Men Engage Alliance, said that given the evidence that years of research and practical field work have thrown up on which interventions work, the challenge before the delegates at the Global Symposium is on how to take these initiatives to scale.
“With women accounting for 45% of the workforce and often earning 10-30% less than men, it is imperative that we address both men’s involvements as caregivers as well as the governments need to improve women’s economic equality by introducing or increasing paid paternity leave, subsidised child care close to the workplace and incentives to encourage men to make greater contributions to their households,” stated stated Oswaldo Montoya, Global Coordinator, MenEngage Global Alliance
Dr. Abhijit Das, Director, Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), the host country partner, summed up the aspiration of the 2nd Global Symposium when he said that, “The time has come for a more caring male persona to assert itself, and for a global movement to emerge which will mainstream men’s role in gender issues through specific planning and policy initiatives.”
The Symposium is expected to result in the release of a ‘Delhi Call to Action’, which will provide a roadmap for governments, UN agencies and all other institutions and organizations on men's role in ensuring gender equality. It comes five years after the First Global Symposium, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2009.
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