Engaging boys and men as allies: The key to unlocking gender equality

Historically, we have tackled gender equality through legal reforms, passing of laws and regulations to eliminate discrimination against women and promote gender equality, including measures such as equal pay laws, anti-discrimination legislation, and family law reforms. We have also used affirmative action to increase the representation of women in traditionally male-dominated fields and promoted gender balance in decision-making positions.

We have worked hard to raise awareness about gender inequality and advocate for change, including campaigns to challenge harmful gender stereotypes, promote women’s rights, and address issues such as gender-based violence.

We have used research to identify patterns of discrimination and to develop evidence-based policies and programs that promote gender equality.

Women’s empowerment and capacity building programs have worked to build the skills, knowledge, and confidence of women and girls, so they can take control of their lives and become agents of change in their communities.

While these approaches have been important, they have often failed to address the root causes of gender inequality and the intersectionality of it with other forms of discrimination, such as race, ethnicity, and class.

More importantly, we have failed to engage boys and men as allies. This is why we need to innovate.

Gender equality is a shared responsibility that requires the engagement and support of men and boys to promote positive and non-violent expressions of masculinity, challenging traditional and out-dated gender roles, speaking out against sexism and misogyny and harmful gender norms and behaviours.

We have to start early.

Let’s say goodbye to the days where expectations are placed on young girls and boys to behave in a certain way based on their gender.

We need to educate girls and boys about the importance of gender equality, and how they can play a positive role in promoting and living it. This includes learning about the impact of gender stereotypes, the benefits of gender equality, and the ways in which they can support it. Let’s not forget that gender equality is not only good for girls and women but, for boys and men too.

We need to challenge gender stereotypes and biases which are deeply ingrained in our culture and significantly impact on how people are perceived and treated. To challenge these biases, we need to promote positive and diverse representations of gender in the media, advertising, and popular culture.

We need a more balanced representation of men and women in leadership positions and decision-making processes. This includes promoting gender diversity in workplaces, politics, and other areas of public life.

We need to use social media platforms and technology to spread awareness about gender equality and engage men and boys in the conversation. Campaigns such as #HeForShe and #MeToo have shown the power of social media to engage men in discussions around gender equality.

We need to address gender pay gaps and encourage more workplaces to create policies that promote gender equality, such as offering parental leave and flexible working arrangements to both men and women. This can encourage men to take a more active role in caregiving and challenge traditional gender roles.

Although we have come a long way, for individuals to thrive in a society that still poses nuances that are often challenging, women and girls, and boys and men must stand in each other’s corner and advocate for gender equality, together.

Engaging boys and men as allies in gender equality requires a multi-pronged approach because it is complex, it is multifaceted, and cannot be addressed by a single strategy.

We will succeed when our boys and men support our girls and women to be equal at home and in the workplace, and our fathers nurture their daughters to grow up to be everything they can be.

It is time.

Káti Jahromi Gapaillard


The Fathering Project

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