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MenEngage Global Symposium to call for “radical measures to address men’s roles in achieving full gender equality”

New Delhi – More than 1000 delegates from 94 countries gathered in Delhi this week for the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium aim to set a new benchmark for redefining notions of masculinity, and to encourage men and boys worldwide to end gender based violence and engage and support efforts to achieve full gender equality.

“When we engage with men on these issues on an individual level or in group work, we have great success in changing men’s and boys’ ideas about what being a man means in today’s society,” said Dean Peacock, Co-founder and Director of Sonke Gender Justice.

“Yet we can only achieve so much this way. The challenge before this symposium is to agree strategies that will enable us to trigger a global movement for social change, working nationally and internationally to take these proven initiatives to scale as never before. If we succeed, the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium will represent a true watershed moment in the history of the gender equality movement.”

The Symposium will result in the release of a ‘Delhi Call to Action’, which will provide a roadmap to address the persisting gaps in addressing men’s roles in ensuring gender equality. It is likely to include calls to review paternity leave policies, to increase men’s involvement in care-giving; question aggressive masculinities being promoted through education curricula and the media; promote approaches that engage boys and young men in questioning rigid and inequitable ways of being men; recommend gender based review of corporate policies, particularly in the field of Human Resources; and drive criminal justice systems to take seriously the need protect women and men victims of violence.

“Examining what is creating masculine aggression in a changing socio-economic reality and then finding ways to address this systematically is the focus of efforts,” says Abhijit Das, director, Centre for Health and Social Justice, the Indian MenEngage partner organizing this week’s symposium, with support from more than 400 organizations, including UN Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“Only when we shed our labels of masculine and feminine can we achieve fulsome humanity, fulsome dignity and full freedom,” said Ena Singh, Assistant Representative, UNFPA. UNFPA’s core work in sexual and reproductive health in diverse communities frequently places them ideally to engage with men and male youth on issues of gender equality and to work towards ensuring dignity in personal relationships.

A range of thematic tracks being examined during the four day meeting includes gender violence; sexuality and identity; social justice, environmental issues, peace building and inclusion; the role that gender plays in employment and poverty; and how changing notions of masculinity inform relationships, emotions and care-giving.

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Eradicating gender based violence is of critical concern. The World Health Organization states that one in three women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner.

“Violence is socially constructed, the result of ideas around power and dominance that boys and men in particular are brought up with,” said Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo and Co-chair of the MenEngage Alliance. “We believe it’s learned behaviour and therefore it can be unlearned. And we have a growing base of effective programs that need to be scaled up.”

“Though important, it is not enough for us to provide support for survivors of violence and lock up the perpetrators. There isn’t a criminal justice system in the world that could accommodate that number of men. In addition to holding men accountable for violence, we need to think in terms of prevention and taking the measures we know can work to scale.”

Delegates argue that the only way to end men’s use of violence is to bring about changes in the way boys are socialised into men, by examining those practices and social messages which seem to induce a sense of misogyny and violence as core values in being a man. This can be achieved through promoting new ways of parenting, promoting equality between boys and girls from the earliest ages, and social messaging of narratives that induce respect for all gender and humanity as the core value of what constitutes manhood.

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