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Make men part of the solution

Alliances with male supporters will enhance any initiative that seeks to empower women and girls as little can be accomplished without their support, whether in the public or private space. It's important to recognize the ways in which gender inequalities are tied up with wider political issues. This can be particularly useful in dealing with resistance to gender-related reforms, which may not primarily be driven by objections to women's rights as such.

Photo of Janice Wong
9 31

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A range of informal power relationships such as patronage networks and male-dominated political cultures continue to prevent women from exercising real influence in decisions that affect their rights and safety. Such barriers call for more long-term and indirect approaches which might include, for example, sensitising male leaders to the benefits of women's participation, or supporting women to act effectively once elected to office. For example, after the recent presidential elections in Iran, the government for the first time appointed a woman as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, while another woman was appointed to lead Iran’s mission in Geneva. Yet under Iranian law, a married woman must still have written consent from her husband to obtain a passport. What would happen if the husband of the new Iranian ambassador were to forbid his wife to travel?

Real change requires engaging with key power-holders such as traditional, religious and community leaders, and convincing them to create space for women's participation and greater gender equality. Gender issues can be framed so that they appeal to the particular incentives of key actors. This could involve highlighting the links between gender equality and economic growth. For example,  Chief Nzamane of Zambia is challenging the practice of early marriage. In being responsible for his people's overall welfare, he understands the lifelong trauma girl brides suffer. "I saw the negative impact that child marriage has not only on girls, but also on their own children, their families, and on all of us in the community." He started a civic education programme where he reached out to people of his community educating them to not look at marriage as a source of income and how education is a better investment in the long-term.

Organizations such as Man Up, founded by journalist Jimmie Briggs, engage youth in a global movement to end gender-based violence and advance gender equality through programming and support of youth-led initiatives. Meanwhile Ali Shahidy, once an abuser himself, is now an ally for women and an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence in his homeland of Afghanistan. After rescuing his sister from an abusive marriage, he realized that gender discrimination and inequality are deeply ingrained in the Afghan culture. He went on to become a strong advocate for women’s rights, a vocal opponent of violence against women, and through speeches, global digital action campaigns, public awareness events, community discussions, and more, he is encouraging men to break the cycle of violence. 


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Photo of Ryan

Great Janice! I really think that your post about men taking part adds to the challenge brief of transforming the WHOLE community for safety. The burden falls on everyone and the more people that can contribute the better. I'm really excited to see where the ideas go that really lean on the strong ties of the urban communities holistically.

Photo of Janice Wong

Agreed. In working together, we can deconstruct mainstream ideas and break down the socially imposed rules about gender roles and propriety. I am excited to be brainstorming and collaborating with this entire community around safer cities for all.

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