Engaging Men & Boys

Engaging Men and Boys

The Issue: Engaging Men and Boys

Men and boys worldwide continue to hold more power than women – in parliaments and on playgrounds; in the household, the classroom and the workplace. Men in many countries also often decide whether women can take steps to improve their own well-being and that of their families.

Such unequal power dynamics in relationships, coupled with cultural expectations that reinforce gender inequity, make men and boys more vulnerable to harm. For instance, societal messages that encourage men to have multiple sexual partners increase their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. But like women, men have the ability to be agents of change in their own lives – as well as in those of their wives, sisters, girlfriends and daughters.

It is imperative to involve men in efforts to better women’s health, economic and social status. Society must acknowledge how some men’s behavior and attitudes limit women’s lives. But it’s also critical to address underlying traditional expectations and structures that lead to their actions – as well as help men understand how they can benefit from changing their behavior. Ultimately, to achieve more equitable relationships, we have to question men’s and women’s beliefs about their roles in society.

Our Role

ICRW is at the forefront of efforts to transform unequal and harmful social norms that undermine the well-being of women and girls, as well as men and boys. We collaborate with partners to conduct research and policy analysis on the role men and boys play in empowering women and achieving gender equality. Through our findings, we identify opportunities for redefining certain notions about what it means to be a man, and changing men's behaviors related to violence, sexual and reproductive health and maternal and child health. We also are building evidence on how to expand effective programs that engage men and boys so they may have a greater impact on more people.

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For years, initiatives aimed at improving the lives of women and girls have focused solely on women and girls. Men, for the most part, were seen as an external entity. In recent years, the global development community has come to recognize that whether men and boys act for or against gender equality, they are active participants and their involvement is inevitable – and critical.

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