There may be one major factor overlooked in the struggle for women’s rights: men. Skeptics are being won over by the preponderance of evidence proving that unless men are actively engaged in supporting the empowerment of women, progress will remain painfully slow and women will remain vulnerable to health threats, including gender-based violence. While this may seem obvious, the findings demonstrate a need to incorporate educating males as a key function of women’s rights organizations and programs.
Years ago, women’s health activists fighting for limited resources believed involving men would take away from the women. Today, studies clearly show that is not the case, and activists now see men as playing a central role in achieving their goal.
Programs like USAID’s “One Man Can” focuses efforts on changing the attitudes of men to create an equitable balance of power, privilege, responsibilities and resources that men and women possess. These programs are proven more effective when men see the advantages for themselves, their partners, and children.
Traditionally, men are prone to take more risks with their health, are less likely to seek professional healthcare services, and often choose to remain emotionally distant from women and children. These norms are detrimental for both men and women, and provide a poor example to children who then perpetuate this cycle.
Reaching boys and young men in their formative years helps to shape their view of women as equals. This approach at the community level must be reinforced by policies that establish this equality as a social norm. By educating men about the consequences of their actions, and enforcing policies that favor equality, traditional ways of thinking can be challenged and changed.
The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women: From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog each day that aims to prove a single point: The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. If you are moved by what you read and want to share, we’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find out how.