Gender inequality remains a critical challenge, threatening to undermine global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Across a number of metrics, women and girls find themselves at a persistent disadvantage to men and boys, yet compelling evidence continues to emerge that shows engaging with men and boys in efforts to address gender equality is crucial for lasting change. This policy brief draws on an example of such research – the two-year ‘Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Gender Equality’ project by EMERGE – to highlight the key policy implications and make the case for reframing policy to more productively factor in men and boys.
The brief outlines three key reasons as to why men and boys should be engaged in gender equality initiatives: that gender equality inherently requires addressing gender relations; that inclusive approaches result in better quality outcomes for women and girls; and that many negative effects of gender inequality also impact men and boys, and require addressing for their own sake. Next, contemporary challenges for policy in changing gender relations are highlighted, including the invisibility often faced by men and boys in gender policy, and the linear ways in which cause and effect is often presented in policy while ignoring wider social contexts.
Finally, the brief discusses lessons on how to reframe gender through work with men and boys, which are summarised in a number of recommendations for inclusion in future policies and policy frameworks:
- Reframe policy on gender in relational and inclusive terms that avoids replicating gendered stereotypes, and acknowledges that gender norms impact both men and women.
- Recognise gender in intersectional terms that seek to avoid silo-approaches, by employing cross-issue alliances and cooperation.
- Enable work with men and boys that links the personal to the political, and facilitates movement building and alliances across constituencies.
- Move beyond current project modalities toward longer term, more adaptive approaches which seek to contribute to change, rather than have change attributed directly to projects.
- Ensure sufficient and consistent financing for gender equality work over longer time periods.
- Hold men accountable to women’s calls for gender justice in ways that guard against ideas of male protectionism, or assumptions that men are against equality.