20111003 GENDER EQUALITY Why involving men is crucial
Gender equality cannot be achieved unless men and boys are convinced of the importance of equal opportunities for women and girls
NAIROBI/KAMPALA, 3 October 2011 (IRIN) - The involvement of men is key to the success of the gender-equality movement, but changing long-held social structures and convincing men of the importance of equal opportunities for women will not happen overnight, experts say.
"Men giving up their superior position is akin to acting out of the normative or prescribed way and [means men can be] ridiculed for acting differently - not like men," Maria Magezi, programme officer with the NGO, Akina Mama wa Afrika, told IRIN in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. "This also means that men will feel as if some kind of power is being taken away from them and the normal thing is to fight to restore their position and power."
report by the NGO, Plan International, says gender equality cannot be achieved unless men and boys are convinced of the importance of equal opportunities for women and girls.
"Policies alone can't do it - we need to start looking for ways to engage boys and men so that they start to see the value in equal opportunities for girls," said Edith Wanjohi, gender advisor for Plan's regional office in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
According to Plan, when it comes to gender equality, men generally fall into three categories: those who acknowledge that women and girls deserve equal rights but fear that boys will lose out if girls are allowed to enjoy these rights; those who do not believe in equal rights - the largest group; and those who believe in equality and put these beliefs into action - the smallest group.
A Plan survey of more than 4,000 adolescent children in India, Rwanda and the United Kingdom found that boys were often conditioned to have negative attitudes towards women. Some 65 percent of respondents from Rwanda and India totally or partially agreed with the statement that "a woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together". More than 60 percent of children interviewed in India agreed that "if resources are scarce it is better to educate a boy instead of a girl".