Let’s Make Gender Equality a Year Long Commemoration
March has already been a powerful month for men showing support for gender equality. As the temperature warmed and the snow drops and crocuses began peeking through the softening earth, I felt a lightness knowing how many men are putting their shoulders to the wheel of positive social change. Here’s a glimpse into the editor’s date book this first third of the month:
The Massachusetts State House in Boston was the scene of a gathering of several hundred men, young men and women allies on March 2 commemorating White Ribbon Day. Part of the international White Ribbon Campaign where men pledge not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women, the Massachusetts effort brought together men from government, sports, law enforcements, business, and the activist world in a remarkable show of solidarity. At the reception that followed, while I didn’t take a scientific poll, nearly as many copies of Voice Male were scooped up as were coffee and cupcakes. Kudos to event organizer, the tireless Craig Norberg-Bohm, coordinator of the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe, Inc, the Massachusetts umbrella organization for the several dozen domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organizations across the Commonwealth. A highlight of the event was the number of high school age young men at the gathering.
Two days later I was in a hotel ballroom next to Grand Central Station in New York City listening to a powerful panel discussing some of the ideas in “What Men Have to Do with It”, a new publication of the Men & Gender Equality Policy Project, examining public policies to promote gender equality in Mexico, South Africa, Chile, India and Brazil. The gathering, hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, included a luncheon panel moderated by Klas Hyllander of Men for Gender Equality in Sweden. Publication of the new report was coordinated by the International Center for Research on Women in Washington and Delhi, and Instituto Promundo in Rio de Janeiro. Panelists Edford Mutama of Planned Parenthood in Zambia, and Saghir Bukhari of Partners for Prevention and UNIFEM, Asia and Pacific region, joined Gary Barker of International Center for Research on Women, and Dean Peacock of the Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa, in a hopeful exchange about challenges, progress and possibility. There’s a long way to go in achieving true gender equality and the gap between language and legislation and action and implementation still needs to be spanned. If the work is to be accomplished, we’ll need the keen strategic thinking and the big brave hearts of the men and women who indeed are moving the wheel of positive change forward.
On March 8th, I sat with old friends and colleagues at an annual International Women’s Day breakfast, hosted by the Greenfield, Mass.-based New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), a foremother in the battered women’s shelter movement. The room was alive with energy as Kathy Alexander, former education director for the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, a passionate advocate for gender justice and women’s safety spoke truth to power in a cadence inviting comparisons to an electrifying preacher. The room of veteran activists was moved.
Serving women and children in a rural county just below Vermont and New Hampshire, NELCWIT offers hope, safety and inspiration–key ingredients as we continue the walk toward justice. Men supporting battered women’s shelters is a key part of our responsibility in taking steps from the sidelines of inaction to the playing fields of change.