Men and Boys for Gender Justice
At the second MenEngage Global Symposium (November 10–13, 2014), some 1200 activists, researchers, practitioners, and other professionals converged in New Delhi, India. The “Men and Boys for Gender Justice” delegates, represented by individuals from a mix of NGOs from 94 countries, met for four days at the Indian Habitat Centre, where plenaries, presentations, and breakout sessions allowed for a rich exchange of ideas. Equally rich were the informal lunchtime and tea break gatherings the women, men and transgender delegates held in the center’s spacious, sunny courtyard. Attendees held a shared awareness of living in a world of profound inequalities and unbalanced power relations, where rigid norms and values about how people should behave fuel and exacerbate injustices. As a consequence, the symposium reflected the full complexity and diversity of gender justice issues. It challenged delegates to reflect, think strategically, reach out across socially constructed boundaries, and strengthen partnerships, and acknowledge that there are gaps. As an outcome of this historic event, and as a shared commitment, the following Declaration and Call to Action expressed both the delegates concerns and their affirmations.
- Patriarchy and gender injustice remain defining characteristics of societies around the world, with devastating effects on everyone’s daily life. No matter who we are, and no matter where we are in the world, these forces make our relationships less fulfilling, less healthy and less safe. From an early age, they introduce suffering, violence, illness, hate and death within our families and communities. They strip us of our fundamental human rights and hinder our ability to live a life with love, dignity, intimacy and mutual respect. They hamper the development of our economies and keep our global society from flourishing. These are the root causes of many barriers to sustainable development around the world. We urgently need to overcome these immense threats to human wellbeing.
- Patriarchy affects everyone, but in different ways. Women and girls continue to face significant, disproportionately high levels of gender injustice and human rights violation. Men and boys are both privileged and damaged by patriarchy, but are rarely aware of that fact. Men and boys are also gendered beings. Gender equality brings benefits to women, men and other genders. We urgently need to acknowledge that gender inequalities are unacceptable no matter who is affected.
- We build on a precious heritage. We owe our awareness of gender injustices, our efforts to promote equality, and the existence of this symposium itself to the pioneering courage and vision of feminist and women’s rights movements. We align with the work of women’s rights organizations and recognize all achievements in transforming social, cultural, legal, financial and political structures that sustain patriarchy. Keeping its historical context in view, we shall continue our work with men and boys towards gender equality informed by feminist and human rights principles, organizations and movements and in a spirit of solidarity.
- We believe in an inclusive approach to realize gender justice. We are men, women and transgender persons calling for everyone to participate in the gender justice movement. Though engaging men and boys is an essential part of such efforts, this has often been overlooked. We seek to make visible the most effective ways men and boys can contribute to gender equality, without being used as mere instruments.
- Patriarchal power, expressed through dominant masculinities, is among the major forces driving structural injustices and exploitation. We are particularly concerned about the many manifestations of militarism and neoliberal globalization, for example: war; the proliferation of weapons; global and local economic inequality; violent manifestations of political and religious fundamentalisms; state violence; violence against civil society; human trafficking; and the destruction of natural resources. We urgently need to expose the link between patriarchy and the exploitation of people and environment, and to help boys and men change their behavior from “power over” to “power with.”
- Gender inequalities are related to inequalities based on race, age, class, caste, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability and other factors. We value the diversity of our world, and cannot continue to address these intersecting injustices in isolation. We commit to promoting social and economic inclusion through meaningful participation, deepened partnerships, and joint actions among social justice movements.
- It is essential that each of us live the values of gender justice. This requires men and boys in particular to reflect critically on their own power and privilege, and to develop personal visions of how to be gender-just men. It requires all of us to base our work on deep personal and political convictions. Whenever and wherever any of us says one thing but behaves differently, it fundamentally undermines our cause. We must speak out both in private and in public when we see others acting unjustly; being a silent bystander to an unjust act means being complicit in that act. Our beliefs, behaviors, relationships, and organizational structures must reflect those we want to see in the world. To do so, we must hold ourselves, as well as our friends, relatives, colleagues and allies, accountable.
- Investment in engaging men and boys in gender justice work makes this work more comprehensive. It should not detract from investment in other effective strategies, especially those undertaken by women’s rights organizations. We reject attempts to weaken our alliances or to put complementary gender justice approaches in competition with one another. We are representatives of diverse organizations, pursuing multiple complementary approaches. We stand in solidarity with each other and commit to strengthening our shared vision of comprehensive gender justice work. We call on policy makers and donors to dramatically increase the resources available for all gender justice work and to include effective gender justice strategies in all development programs.
- Priorities for specific policy areas and actions for engaging men and boys in gender justice work include: gender-based violence; violence against women; violence against girls, boys and trans-children; violence among men and boys; violence in armed conflict; violence against human rights defenders; caregiving and fatherhood; gender and the global political economy; sexual and reproductive health and rights; sexual and gender diversities and sexual rights (LGBTIQ); men’s and boys’ gender vulnerabilities and health needs; sexual exploitation; HIV and AIDS; youth and adolescents; the education sector; work with religious and other leaders; environment and sustainability; and strengthening the evidence base.
- The Post-2015 Development Agenda must embrace a human rights approach and also transform unequal power relations. We believe that achieving gender justice requires engaging men and boys for the benefit of women and girls, men and boys themselves, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. For a world that is just, safe and sustainable. We advocate for all activists, civil society organizations, private sector partners, governments and UN agencies to actively promote these principles and ensure that the new international development agenda is just and inclusive.
The Declaration and Call to Action was translated into multiple languages; versions in Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese can be found at http://www.menengagedilli2014.net/delhi-declaration-and-call-to-action.html.