Category: 2017 Spring

Spring 2017 Edition

The MenEngage Gender Equality Issue with reports from: Brazil, Congo, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Sweden, & Uganda Features Young Men’s Journey to Gender Equality in Kosovo by Maike Dafeld Besnik Leka promotes gender equality with CARE International’s Young Men Initiative in Kosovo. In an interview with Maike Dafeld, editor of Balkan Perspectives, he reveals why gender equality is closely linked to dealing with the past, and shares his personal motivations for working for gender equality. Changing Congo Men’s Attitudes on Gender Begins at Home By Odette Asha with Inge Vreeke “I couldn’t accept my share of his will if...

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Spring 2017: Men @ Work

Kudos for Kuros! A U.S.-based company is getting selfdefense products into the hands of women around the world. Kuros! recently donated 2,000 cans of pepper spray to women in the Philippines, where females are the daily targets of violence and sexual assault. Company founder Kuro Tawil says his business wants to give women “a fighting chance” at protecting themselves from assault and allowing them to live their lives without fear. “We are committed to changing women’s lives on a global scale,” Tawil said. For every Kuros! product sold, the company founder says, a can of pepper spray is provided to a woman who could not otherwise afford it. The firm has reached out to women in several countries, including South Africa, India, and El Salvador. Kuros! and Willi Hahn Enterprises, a retailer of outdoor sporting goods, teamed up with Gabriela, the Alliance of Filipino Women working for freedom and democracy, to reach vulnerable women across the country. They began delivering pepper spray last November in honor of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For more information visit Challenging Russia’s Dangerous Domestic Violence Laws In Russia, a woman sustains injuries from domestic violence every 12 minutes. That’s 36,000 women each year, although the number may be higher since there is no official record keeping of family violence cases. So says activist Alena Popova...

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Mail Bonding

Countering Misogyny in the White House I learned a lot from reading the Voice Male anthology. Thank you for the important work you do to counter the misogyny that was revealed by the election campaign. I am appalled that an admitted sexual predator is now our President, and I was proud to march in Boston on January 21 with my wife and others from my Episcopal church. I’m hoping to get involved with a local organization that is working to end sexual and domestic violence. Keep fighting the good fight! Dan Fields Framingham, Mass. Helping My Sons Explore Privilege—and Feminism I purchased the Voice Male book several months ago when I started looking for books about feminism for men. I have five children, my eldest daughter is almost 17 and I have four sons (two sets of twins, 15 and 10). I’ve been a feminist my whole adult life and now that my children are exploring issues of privilege and intersectionality, I’ve been looking for resources for my sons that they can connect with. They are interested, open-minded and curious, but also challenged and overwhelmed by it all. Their sister is like their mom was at her age and pretty fierce, which means I spend a lot of time helping my sons navigate mixed and challenging feelings about masculinity and feminism—which is good, but hard work. I have a...

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To Be a Man

By Eric McGriff and Anthony McGriff When they were 16 and co-chairs of their high school’s White Ribbon antiviolence campaign, twin brothers Eric and Anthony McGriff began volunteering at Vera House, a domestic and sexual violence prevention and intervention agency in Syracuse, N.Y., and say they have been working to end sexual and relationship violence ever since. They are now 23. I am a ride or die type of guy, This means that my loyalty is unwavering and I will never hesitate to throw that first punch. So if you ask me… “What does it really mean to be a man?” For me, it means being strong Even when I am weak. It means holding it down, Even when no one is there to hold me up. And when it becomes too much, I’ve learned to just suck it up, Even when I can barely hold it in. I remember being 5 years old, falling down, and my coach told me to brush it off… I was on the verge of tears I remember being 10 and learning that it was an insult to be called gay. I remember being 15 years old and knowing that if I had to fight someone to prove that I am not a pussy, then that is exactly what I was going to do. But now, I think of my mother and all...

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Celebrating the Birth of a Girl

By Richa Singh The birth of a son in Haryana, a state in northern India, is celebrated by beating a thali, a steel plate. While a son is honored, a daughter’s birth is frowned upon. The birth of a son is a matter of prestige, proudly announced to the whole community. Neem branches are hung and sweets are distributed. All traditional rituals are performed, accompanied by a huge celebration. If a girl is born, however, only the most basic rituals are performed. In fact, if a family is “blessed” with two or more girls, their birth is actually mourned. Social norms are s t r e n g t h e n e d by these rituals. Girls are regularly named Bhateri or Ram Bhateri, which means “the last one” or “the end.” Haryana is known for having a low “sex ratio” and a lower child sex ratio. Sex ratio is the number of females per 1000 males. According to the 2011 census (the last year for which statistics are available), the sex ratio in Haryana was 879 girl children born for every 1000 boys. A low sex ratio reflects the value given girls and women in the society. In a patriarchal society, women are viewed as a burden, devalued. What results is both discrimination and violence against women. Breakthrough—a human rights organization that works to make violence and...

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Audio Stories Spark Shift in Men

By Usha Rai Nitesh Verma, 33, a tailor in a village in Rajasthan’s Bundi district, is married and has a daughter, seven, and a son, two. Every morning when he woke up, his wife would be waiting with a steaming cup of hot tea for him, before busying herself with other household chores. He never offered any assistance. One night he heard “Dulhan ki batein,” an audio story on his mobile phone that talked about gender issues in a way that got him thinking. It was part of the Kishor Varta education program being implemented in 30 senior and...

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Crying: A Man’s Most Courageous Act?

By Benjamin Perry Crying is a courageous act. That might sound paradoxical, but juxtaposed against the expectation of male stoicism, tears are subversive and powerful. And, at long last, more and more men are casting aside toxic masculinity’s restrictive norms to live into healthier male identities. Two recent political moments, to me, embody this movement and all its attendant challenges and triumphs. The first happened not long ago: In a speech decrying Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven nations, New York Senator Chuck Schumer— surrounded by refugees—choked up. His eyes filled with tears as he labeled the president’s action “mean spirited and un-American.” This poignant moment was not shocking, in and of itself. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Senate minority leader’s heart swelled with emotion as he spoke out against the ban, flanked by those who stand to concretely suffer from its implementation. What is notable, however, is the speed with which the president pointed out how Schumer transgressed traditional masculine bounds. As airports thronged with protesters, Trump blamed the ensuing chaos on “the tears of Senator Schumer.” Later, in an interview, Trump claimed that Schumer must have been faking the tears—ginning up emotion for the cameras—seemingly oblivious to why Schumer might be overcome with emotion. Trump’s dismissive and bullying attitude is simply a grotesque and overt iteration of the kinds of criticism men always risk...

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Nelson Mandela’s Evolving Masculinity

By Raymond Suttner In these times of widespread violence perpetrated by men, we may learn from Nelson Mandela’s model of masculinity. The main biographies of Nelson Mandela do not consider him as a gendered subject. Yet Mandela’s evolving masculinity shows the type of man he represented. He changed a lot over the years—he changed as a man and as a human being. His identity as a man cannot be reduced to one single, enduring quality. Men have always dominated the African National Congress (ANC) at a formal political level. The discourse of the organization has reflected masculine idioms. Mandela was part of the rebellious youth league tradition, which attacked the ANC leadership at the time while embracing the same masculinist imagery of overcoming the “emasculation” of African men and “recovering manhood.” Mandela came to embody a heroic, martial tradition in the underground and military activities of the ANC, an image he shared later with younger people such as Chris Hani, the South African Communist Party leader and fierce opponent of the apartheid government who was assassinated in 1993. This fighting image is foreshadowed in the notion of Mandela being a boxer, a role with wide township appeal, in some ways akin to the admiration shown the tsotsis (youth gangs). And Mandela was a flashy dresser, like those tsotsis and the musicians of the 1950s. At one of his most...

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Transforming Gender Norms

By MenEngage Alliance On September 25, 2015, governments around the world adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Major goals included: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and everyday citizens. The MenEngage Alliance recommends a gendertransformative framework...

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Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment

By MenEngage Alliance In advance of the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work” and its concurrent theme addressing the challenges and achievements in implementing the millennium development goals for women and girls, the MenEngage Alliance, with support from Rutgers University’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, wrote a statement of support with recommendations for governments to follow. Among the contributors to drafting the statement was MenEngage Alliance global coordinator Joni van de Sand, who contributed this edited excerpt. Women’s economic empowerment has to be about women- and girl-led initiatives to transform the systemic factors underlying women and girls’ disempowerment, and it also must be about advancing women and girls’ autonomy and leadership. Although today more women than ever are in the workforce, around the world women are often in precarious, informal jobs, receive less pay than men for equal work, and are underrepresented in leadership positions. Women face a wide array of systemic barriers to full economic empowerment, including rigid gender norms around men’s and women’s roles in society. Furthermore, women continue to spend two to 10 times more of their time on unpaid care work than men and boys, including child care, elder care, and domestic activities. As a result, women’s time for other pursuits such as paid work, education, or...

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Uganda’s Coo Makwiri (“Role Model Men”)

A CARE Uganda Special Report Ojok Mark, 31 years old, spent his early life in a displaced persons camp in the Gulu District of Uganda. With limited mobility and scant opportunity to work, he and other young men resorted to drinking. To compound matters, he got a woman pregnant and started a family while young. When he started his family, he thought that they “belonged” to him; that his wife should do everything for him. After harvesting their crops, he would sell them without telling his wife and spend the money drinking and buying gifts for another woman. “I...

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Why Many Women Resist Their Male Partner’s Support at Home

In the Fall 2016 issue, we explored women’s resistance to their male partners, assuming greater responsibility at home in the articles “Men: Equal Partners in Care Work?” and “Will Women Resist More Caregiving by Men?” To recap: in Mozambique, the organization Rede HOPEM developed an innovative training program, “Men in the Kitchen,” focusing on skill development and expanding the role of fathers. They found that men engaging in childcare and home management were met, in many cases, by anger and derision rather than appreciation and support. Men’s wives and partners regarded their help as an intrusion into women’s private...

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Taking Art to New Delhi’s Streets to Champion Gender Justice

By Durba Ghose A creative campaign in India uses a range of techniques— from street theater to workshops—to foster dialogue on gender justice. It has reached more than 6000 people of diverse ages and across three-dozen places in New Delhi. The Ab Baaki Charcha campaign (ABC)—which means “Now, the Remaining Dialogue”—is a project the Delhi-based organization Mittika spearheaded in collaboration with the Forum to Engage Men and Humsaa, Sadak Chaap, KlodB and Alternative Spaces Foundation. ABC’s goal is to engage Delhi’s citizens, especially men and boys, in advocating for gender justice. The ABC campaign was part of a nationwide...

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Empowering Women in Kenya

Chickens Coming Home to Roost for Equality By Elias Muindi Because of the number of men who have died from HIVAIDS and other illnesses, Kenya has a large population of widows. Although regarded as key members of Kenyan society, they face enormous challenges. Chief among their impediments is “widow inheritance,” a cultural practice followed by the Luo ethnic community of Nyanza and western Kenya. Its central feature compels a widow to cohabit with her brother-in-law, a male cousin or other close male relative, a policy officially sanctioned by the family of the deceased man, clan and community. The original...

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Overturning Lebanon’s Outrageous Rape Law

By Sinéad Nolan In Lebanon, rapists can avoid criminal prosecution provided they marry their victims. The law, originally introduced in the 1940s, was meant to salvage the “honor” of women who are raped. It was codified as part of the country’s penal code. In 2016, as part of the annual “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence,” the Lebanese gender justice organization ABAAD launched a campaign to abolish the archaic law. ABAAD, which means “dimensions” in Arabic, promotes sustainable social and economic development through equality, protection and the empowerment of marginalized groups, especially women. Their campaign was called “A...

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Young Indian Men Waking Up to Gender Justice

By Danit Shaham, Anjana Goswami and Rucha Satoor If you are lucky enough to have a genuine dialogue with a young boy, say the authors, you will notice that a young man is a gold mine of dreams, aspirations and wisdom. The Equal Community Foundation (ECF), based in the Indian city of Pune, has been that lucky—engaging with more than 4450 such young and bright minds for the past seven years. They found that working on gender equality issues with adolescent boys between 13 and 17 is both exciting and challenging. In India, it is essential to understand the...

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Brazil’s Policies Harmful to Women’s Equality… and Bad for Men, Too

By Tatiana Moura and Victoria Page Midway through writing this article, in Rio de Janeiro’s bohemian Lapa neighborhood, we heard it: the sounds of tear gas as riot police repressed mass protests against harsh austerity measures proposed by Brazil’s months-old conservative government. The so-called “Bridge to the Future” policy, if approved, would impose a 20-year spending cap, freezing the federal budget but for inflation-based increases. From 2017 to 2037, not a centavo more for public health, education, poverty alleviation or childhood development, among other social programs. Across-the-board cuts hurt everyone, but history shows they hit women particularly hard. Tasked...

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Sweden’s Pioneering Fathers’ Groups

By Sinéad Nolan Matts Berggren is a pioneer in Sweden’s fathers’ group movement, and a staff member at Men for Gender Equality Sweden. He recently talked about the history of the country’s fathering groups, their expansion around the globe, and the current challenges they face. In Sweden, PappaGrupp (fathering groups) encourage men to be more active during their partner’s pregnancy, as well as during the birth, and afterward involved in childcare. The male-only classes were started a quarter century agoby Swedish men who recognized that most men were not attending prebirth classes and decided to do something about it. “We found that there was an information gap between men and women in terms of knowledge and preparation for parenthood,” Berggren explained, “and that men felt either excluded by traditional classes targeted at women, or were unable to freely express their concerns in the traditionally female setting of maternity centers.” Fathers’ groups are facilitated by male psychologists in collaboration with staff at local health centers and midwives, and bring together groups of new and expectant fathers to learn about childcare, and to share their experiences of fatherhood with one another. They seek to highlight how important involved fatherhood is for children, strengthen partner relationships, reduce fathers’ feelings of exclusion, prevent fathers’ postpartum depression, and communicate to men the broader benefits of gender equality. “It’s important that these groups are male-only...

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Changing Congo Men’s Attitudes on Gender Begins at Home

“I couldn’t accept my share of my father’s will if my sisters were to receive nothing,” Bahati Leomard says. He convinced his father and brothers to share the inheritance with his sisters. By Odette Asha with Inge Vreeke “I couldn’t accept my share of his will if my sisters were to receive nothing,” confessed Bahati Leomard, a 23-year-old man living with his parents in Rusayo, near the town of Goma in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was talking about his father’s gender-based decision to apportion his inheritance. One day, Bahati’s father sold all of his fields and decided to share the money among the more than two-dozen of his children that he had with four wives. By children, though, he meant sons. When distributing his money, he did not plan to give anything to his daughters. Bahati told his father he would not accept his share if his sisters were not going to receive any money. Bahati shared this story with staff members from CARE and its partner Congo MenEngage (COMEN) attending a group to engage men in Rusayo. In many communities in DRC there is a tradition that allows fathers not to consider their daughters as their children. Girls are considered a loss for their families, because when they get married, they join their spouse’s family. Bahati’s father, like many others,...

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Young Men’s Journey to Gender Equality in Kosovo

Besnik Leka promotes gender equality with CARE International’s Young Men Initiative in Kosovo. In an interview with Maike Dafeld, editor of Balkan Perspectives, he reveals why gender equality is closely linked to dealing with the past, and shares his personal motivations for working for gender equality. A version of this interview was first published in Balkan Perspectives, viewable here: Maike Dafeld: What does gender equality mean to you? Besnik Leka: The perception of gender equality has been evolving and unfortunately sometimes it is misinterpreted and misunderstood. Many people confuse gender equality with the empowerment of one gender over another. In my opinion gender equality is nothing more and nothing less than equal opportunities and equal rights for both men and women. MD: You are one of the few men working directly on gender equality in Kosovo. How did you get involved in this topic? BL: Gender has been an integral part of my life since childhood. I have three sisters and growing up I never viewed any difference between us although I received more attention as the boy in the family. When I was bullied in school, instead of bringing a man to protect me—as tradition requires—I brought my sisters. My sisters were my best friends and role models growing up. I have three nieces and one nephew, and they keep me inspired to work on gender equality....

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A Message from the MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Activists, Thank you for picking up the latest issue of Voice Male magazine. We are happy to share this special issue with you as it marks a collaboration between Voice Male and MenEngage Alliance. Voice Male has a unique history in the field of working with men and masculinities for gender justice, which it has been chronicling for three decades. In Voice Male’s pages you will find stories of men standing with women to end gender-based violence and to transform societal ideas about manhood towards forms that are based on equality and feminist principles. The MenEngage Alliance is a network of more than 700 civil society organizations, research institutes and activists mobilizing and engaging men and boys to advance the rights of women and girls, and gender justice for everyone. We believe that transforming masculinities is crucial. We focus on the roles and responsibilities of men and boys, including their privileges, as well as the ways in which they themselves are harmed by existing expressions of conventional manhood. We take into account how gender identity, race, class, sexual diversity and country-level realities interact with and create systems of oppression. We use a feminist-informed analysis to address power and patriarchy, and build on the achievements of—and work in partnership with—women’s rights activists and other social justice movements. In this edition of the magazine you will read...

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Fall 2016


Voice Male: the Book