DELHI LEADS THE WAY TO ENGAGING MEN FOR GENDER EQUALITY
The roll of drumbeats ushering in sounds from across the world opened the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium 2014 in New Delhi on November 10, its echoes thrumming around the world. As the energetic Dalit Drummers group leapt onto the stage at the inaugural, their beats set off a medley of responses among the panelists and audience who joined in with African drums and other percussion instruments of their own to give back beat for beat.
The oxygen for the rest of the symposium was provided from the air reverberating with this passion. A highly responsive group of 1200 participants from 94 countries marching to their own drums banded together for the next three days upto November 13 for an intense engagement "to break the back of gender injustice" as it was so forcefully put at the inaugural.
Global leaders from international organisations and government and country representatives were the 'policy people' who joined 'thought people', 'field people' and 'ordinary curious citizens' at this 'gender-mender' event. Over 60 thought-provoking sessions were held including 100 oral presentations and 50 poster presentations in a multilingual melange that reflected the full diversity and complexity of gender justice issues. The academic mixed with the cultural in a rich potpourri of dance, music, games, a global film festival on masculinities, a photography exhibition and theatrical performances spread out over the India Habitat Centre venue, reflecting on the theme of masculinities and gender equality in diverse ways. The symposium was also a platform for substantive discussions held outside the formal sessions in different 'Hangout Zones.'
Ultimately there were no endings at the symposium, only beginnings. While Kate Gilmore, deputy executive director, UNFPA, identified "the desire of some men to step out of masculinity," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director, UN Women, rallied, “My friends, there is quite a bit of homework for the men of the world!" She put the matter in a nutshell, "The Symposium has confirmed that the real discussion about engaging men and boys for gender equality has to be about transforming gender relations and men assuming responsibility.”
This clarion call to the people of the world crystallised in the Delhi Declaration and Call to Action. Placing gender equality in the context of international commitments to human rights, it affirms, "The Post-2015 Development Agenda must embrace a human rights approach and also transform unequal power relations. We believe that achieving gender justice requires engaging men and boys for the benefit of women and girls, men and boys themselves, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. For a world that is just, safe and sustainable, we advocate for all activists, civil society organisations, private sector partners, governments and UN agencies to actively promote these principles and ensure that the new international development agenda is just and inclusive."
Pointing out that the symposium "challenged us to reflect, think strategically, reach out across socially constructed boundaries, and strengthen partnerships," the Delhi Declaration gives concrete examples of how to address the gaps. It advocates how to take work with men and boys from the programme and project level into policies and institutions, promote gender equitable socialization, engage boys and men in the prevention of gender-based violence, engage men as fathers and caregivers and in taking equal responsibility for unpaid care work, and engage men as supportive partners, clients and positive agents of change in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Gunning the momentum of a collective voice for change built during the first symposium held in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, the Delhi symposium has emerged as a watershed moment in the history of the gender equality movement.