Partnership & Accountability blog series

Partnership & Accountability blog series

Accountability to the women´s and to social justice movements is crucial for building collaborative and equitable partnerships. Accountability requires the development of a receptive capacity in men and others who have been placed in positions of power and privilege, so that they can listen to the perspectives and needs of oppressed groups in order to become authentic allies. Accountability and partnership building also require us to engage in respectful dialogues, and a willingness to constantly address issues and concerns raised by our partners.

We hope that this blog series contributes to these ongoing conversations and serves as another platform to share useful information.

Blog posts are written by member and partners of MenEngage, for whom we provide a platform for dialogue. The opinions expressed in the posts do not necessarily represent those of the MenEngage Alliance.

To learn more about MenEngage & Accountability go to www.menengage.org/accountability

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Momentos claves en la contextualización del código de conducta de MenEngage en Nicaragua

Douglas Mendoza Urrutia y Ana María Bermúdez
Código de Conducta REDMAS

La Red de Masculinidad por la Igualdad de Género de Nicaragua (REDMAS) es una red que llegó a su noveno aniversario con 20 organizaciones de la sociedad civil. Coincidimos organizaciones feministas, organizaciones que trabajan con niños, niñas, adolescentes y jóvenes y grupos de hombres. El objetivo de este artículo es compartir las razones que nos movió a construir nuestro propio Código de Conducta.  Identificamos cuatro momentos claves en este proceso.

Diálogo con el movimiento feminista

El primer momento fue un encuentro con compañeras del movimiento feminista sobre el trabajo de masculinidades. Compartimos la historia del grupo de hombres contra la violencia formada en los años noventa. Preocupados por la violencia contra las mujeres y motivados por las compañeras feministas nos organizamos para hablar sobre nuestras propias vidas y hacer  un trabajo público de concientización.
Muchas compañeras no creían en el trabajo con hombres. Señalaban que posterior a la revolución sandinista los hombres habíamos continuado con el machismo, pese a que la intención era ser hombres nuevos.

Nos dijeron que el trabajo de masculinidades genera discursos igualitarios en los hombres pero pueden seguir siendo machistas en sus vidas cotidianas. Por eso cuestionamos a fondo esas relaciones de poder de los hombres e impulsamos este trabajo desde muchos frentes: las paternidades, la salud sexual y derechos reproductivos, la prevención del VIH y el SIDA, las diversidades sexuales y la prevención de la violencia. 

Las compañeras nos hicieron preguntas que nos cuestionan:

¿Surgió el trabajo de los hombres producto de los malestares de los propios hombres sobre los núcleos duros de su masculinidad o nació por el malestar creciente del feminismo?  

Nos preguntan sobre la intención y las motivaciones más profundas de nuestro trabajo con los hombres. ¿Es para hacer reformas que preserven el poder masculino o es para unirse al movimiento feminista y desmontar el poder masculino patriarcal?

Las compañeras nos dijeron que los hombres tienen que ser interpelados. Aquí está la esencia de la rendición de cuentas. Desaprender el machismo es un proceso lento, con avances y recaídas. Por eso necesitamos esa constante interpelación del movimiento de mujeres. 

Nos señalaron los riesgos de enfoques en el trabajo con hombres donde se diluye el análisis de las relaciones de poder, dejándolo como un problema superficial de comunicación, o se coloca a los hombres en un victimismo (“hombres sufridos por el machismo”), o se teme abordar temas como la homofobia. 

Estas reflexiones críticas nos comprometen a crear más espacios de diálogo con el movimiento de mujeres, forjar alianzas concretas y mejorar nuestras prácticas internas como red.

Código de Conducta de MenEngage 

El segundo momento  influyente en la decisión de construir nuestro Código de Conducta fue la adherencia de nuestra Red al Código de Conducta de MenEngage Global. Pensamos que sería importante trabajar en un documento que normara las relaciones entre hombres y mujeres al interno de REDMAS y con los grupos metas que trabajamos. Vimos que no era suficiente que cada organización tuviese su propia política institucional de protección o código de ética, sino que necesitábamos una como REDMAS.

Taller regional en Auditoría  y Rendición de cuentas

El tercer momento se marca con el taller regional sobre auditoría y rendición de cuentas, que se realizó en Nicaragua, facilitado por MenEngage. Nos dimos cuenta de la dimensión política de la auditoría y rendición de cuentas. Comprendimos que para transformar las relaciones de poder los grupos privilegiados deben rendir cuentas y escuchar la perspectiva de los grupos con menos poder. Por ejemplo, los hombres deben rendir cuentas y escuchar a las mujeres; y las mujeres activistas deben también escuchar a otras mujeres marginadas. Se trata de una herramienta anti-opresiva de alianzas.

Rendir cuentas es compartir con transparencia lo que hacemos y estar dispuestos a ser cuestionados. Urge escuchar y tomar medidas cuando nos señalan prácticas que violan nuestros principios. 

Al final del taller nos comprometimos a firmar el Código de Conducta de MenEngage, tender un puente de diálogo con organizaciones de mujeres que no son de la RED, poner en común la apuesta política de REDMAS con todas sus organizaciones miembros, y replicar los contenidos del taller con las organizaciones miembros.

Taller de réplica con la Asamblea de REDMAS 

El taller de réplica fue el cuarto momento del proceso. Ingenuamente creíamos que todas las personas dentro de la RED establecemos relaciones de respeto y equidad, dado que somos activistas con un compromiso con la igualdad y los derechos humanos. Al abordar la rendición de cuentas, salió a luz situaciones problemáticas dentro de la RED que no se habían abordado. Algunos compañeros estaban tratando en forma sexista a algunas compañeras. Se estaban facilitando actividades educativas con metodologías inapropiadas. 

Concluimos que no se podían seguir permitiendo estas prácticas.  Sin embargo, no teníamos claridad sobre cómo proceder. Era más fácil resolver los análisis de casos teóricos sobre violaciones al Código de Conducta incluidos en el diseño del taller, que enfrentar casos similares en la vida real. 

Teníamos que sentar un precedente, para no dejar el mensaje equivocado de que en REDMAS se encubren esas situaciones pero, ¿Cómo hacerlo? Sentimos mucho temor de que las situaciones se hicieran públicas y perdiéramos nuestra credibilidad como RED. Prevaleció nuestro compromiso de practicar la coherencia entre el discurso y la práctica.

Existen organizaciones que no son de la RED que están haciendo trabajo con hombres con enfoques reforzadores del machismo. También comentamos de líderes de organizaciones acusados por delitos de abuso sexual que han solicitado integrarse a la RED. Esto fue también otra motivación para contar con un Código de Conducta para evitar que organizaciones con prácticas cuestionables ingresen a la RED. Estas situaciones surgidas en el taller aceleró la decisión de contar con un Código de Conducta. Y lo fuimos construyendo en forma participativa con los aportes de todos y todas.

Key experiences in the contextualization of the MenEngage Code of Conduct in Nicaragua

By Douglas Mendoza Urrutia and Ana María Bermudez


REDMAS Code of Conduct
The Masculinity Network for Gender Equality (RedMas) is a Nicaraguan network of 20 civil society organizations that recently celebrated its ninth anniversary. Among its members are feminist organizations, organizations working children, adolescents and youths and men’s groups. The aim of this post is to share the experiences and reasons that led us to build our own Code of Conduct. We identified four key experiences in this process.

Dialogues with the feminist movement

The first experience was a meeting with compañeras (female comrades) of the feminist movement about work with men and masculinities. We shared the history of the Group of Men Against Violence formed in the 1990s. Concerned about violence against women and motivated by feminist peers, we organized ourselves to work both inwardly, sharing reflections in private circles about our own lives as men, and to start the outward process of reaching out to other men for awareness-raising. 

Many feminist compañeras did not believe in the work with men. They pointed out that even after the triumph of the Sandinista revolution men continued with their machistas tendencies, even though the intention was to be a new man within a just social order.

We were told that the work on masculinities generates egalitarian discourse in men but that many remained macho in their daily lives. That is why we are committed to question the power relations that men establish. That is why we are pushing this work from many fronts: paternity, sexual health and reproductive rights, prevention of HIV and AIDS, sexual diversity and prevention of violence.

The compañeras asked us questions that challenged us:
Did work with men arise out of personal discomfort with the hard cores of their masculinity, or was it born out of solidarity with feminism?

They asked us about the intentions and deeper motivations of our work with men. Is it to make reforms that preserve male power or is it to join the feminist movement and dismantle male patriarchal power?

The compañeras told us that men have to be questioned. Here is the essence of accountability. Unlearning machismo is a slow process, with advances and relapses. That is why we need that constant interpolation of the women's movement.

They also laid out some of the risks of some approaches to working with men: the analysis of power relations may be diluted, reducing it to a superficial problem of communication; placing men in a victims’ role ("men suffering from machismo"); or fearing to address important themes such as homophobia.

These critical reflections commit us to creating more spaces for dialogue with the women's movement, forging concrete alliances and improving our internal practices as a network.

MenEngage Code of Conduct

The second experience influencing the decision to build our Code of Conduct was our Network's decision to adhere to the MenEngage Global Code of Conduct. We thought it would be important to work on a document that would regulate the relationships between men and women within REDMAS and with the target groups we work with. We saw that it was not enough for each organization to have its own institutional policy of protection or code of ethics - we needed one like REDMAS’s.

Regional Workshop on Accountability

The third experience was the regional workshop on accountability, which was held in Nicaragua in 2015, facilitated by the MenEngage Global Secretariat. It was there that we realized the political dimension of accountability. We understood that to transform power relations, privileged groups must be accountable and listen to the perspectives of groups with less power. For example, men should be accountable and listen to women and women activists must also listen to other marginalized women. It is an anti-oppressive alliance tool.

To be accountable is to share with transparency what we do and be willing to be questioned. It is urgently important to listen and take action when others point out practices that violate our principles.

At the end of the workshop, we committed to signing the MenEngage Code of Conduct, building a bridge of dialogue with women's organizations, disseminating our political commitment with all member organizations, and replicating the contents of the workshop with member organizations.

The Replication Workshop with the REDMAS Assembly

The workshop on accountability with our members, also held in 2015, was the fourth experience in this process. We naively believed that all people within the network establish respectful and equitable relationships, since we are activists with a commitment to equality and human rights. In addressing accountability during the workshop, problematic situations within the network that had not been addressed emerged. Some of the male members of the network were behaving in sexist ways toward female members. Some educational interventions were being implemented using inappropriate approaches.

We concluded that these practices could no longer be allowed. However, we did not know how to proceed. It was easier to resolve the theoretical case analyses of violations of the Code of Conduct offered in the workshop than to tackle similar cases in real life.

We had to set a precedent, so as not to leave the wrong impression, that REDMAS was concerned about such situations, but did not address them. We were very afraid that the situations would be made public and we would lose our credibility. Ultimately, our commitment to coherence between discourse and practice prevailed.


There are organizations that are not members of the network but are working with men on gender issues using approaches that reinforce machismo; we have also received requests to join the network from leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. These were other reasons why we needed a Code of Conduct - to prevent organizations and people with questionable practices from joining the network. The situations discussed during the workshop accelerated the decision to create a Code of Conduct. And we built it in a participatory way, with contributions from everyone.

Friday, September 9, 2016

In disquiet, the seed of a new understanding: a way forward for men and gender equality

By Abhijit Das

Abhijit Das
Every day the news is becoming painfully similar. A man in the US has shot students in a school or college, a gang of young men had a street fight somewhere leaving many dead and wounded, a young man is arrested in a European country for being part of a terrorist plot that killed and maimed many people somewhere else, a man has raped a girl, a brother has shot his sister for planning to marry a man of her choice in Pakistan, a father killed his children and then his wife before hanging himself somewhere deep in the central part of India. The list is endless.

Men all over the world are in the news for killing, shooting, raping, road rage, domestic violence, honour killing, acid attacks and many more forms of violence against others – women, men, children, sisters, children, wives. Society has often glorified violence and killing, especially in wars aimed at political gain and public safety, where the other ‘party’ is cast as the enemy. But in recent times such ‘heroic’ acts of violence seem to be replaced by more inter-personal violence, or violence which is not aimed at any obvious enemy. And this disease seems to affect men everywhere.

In the last few weeks I have had discussions with the leadership of a number of development organisations who have asked me about ways they could start a conversation with men in the communities that they work in. All these organisations have been working with women for years, in some cases decades. Women had organized into community groups, they were engaged in different kinds of economic activity, were bringing more money into their households, but now because they were more articulate and mobile and had more aspirations for themselves they  faced resistance from men in their families and in their communities. The request was that we work with men at community and family levels to create a more supportive and enabling environment for these obviously empowered women.

You may be wondering, what is the relationship between the violence by men that I have described in the first instance and the societal and familial control exerted by men in the second? For me the relationship lies in our expectation of men in the family and in society. In the second case there is an expectation now that the men become facilitative of women’s new aspirations, provide them with encouragement, or at least space and opportunity. While I can understand where the anxiety of the organisations comes from, and respect their understanding of women’s rights, I feel that they have failed to understand how patriarchy -- a society based on men’s primacy -- creates men and leads to a kind of ‘hegemonic’ masculinity which controls not only through boundaries, orders, coercion and force but equally through a kind of overweening concern and protectiveness. Men are comfortable being in a position of authority tinged by fear, and if we work with men to make them understand women’s need for more opportunity and space, moving men to this different position can become equally problematic, as some can become violent or cruelly controlling when their  control is challenged.

This phenomenon, of men becoming cruel and violent when their comfort levels are upset or challenged, is at the core of the high levels of violence that we are witnessing everywhere.

Violence, control and coercion are key to expressions of power, and as mentioned earlier, society often valorizes these expressions for purposes of ‘safety’ and ‘discipline’. Boys are trained to become men in all families, internalizing masculine roles through myths, stories, games, toys, comic books, video games, TV serials  -- this list is endless, too. Even the most well-meaning mother prepares her son for his future role by encouraging study, sports and outdoor life, and discouraging the practice of household work, or of art, music or dolls.

Among the emotions allowed by masculinity, being sad is discouraged, and anger is allowed but immediately pacified or satisfied so that disappointment doesn’t linger. Today boys are encouraged to be happy and successful at all costs, and they are not at all trained to manage disappointment. So we raise boys to be men who are familiar with being in positions where their needs are satisfied -- in other words, to be in positions of authority and power. They know they can express dissatisfaction through anger and believe that violence by people in positions of authority can be morally justified if it is against an ‘enemy’. Taken together this can become a very toxic mix.             

But the real world is very different from the cocoon of the family. It is full of potential disappointments and frustrations. Today the world order is changing rapidly. Subordinate social classes are now much more assertive, livelihood opportunities are evaporating, jobs are insecure and there is increasing poverty. In many cases, the security of the home is becoming lost due to patterns of migration. There are more men who find their world topsy-turvy and fewer reside in the comfort zone of continued privilege and authority. In this confusion many try to hang on to  earlier security blankets of caste, ethnic, race or religious--based superiority. And many groups are in turn preying on this insecurity of young men. The killing of bloggers in Bangladesh or the ISIS, they all seem to be feeding off this phenomenon. Men now see the ‘enemy’ everywhere and thus their violence is justified. This sense now has come to infuse politics everywhere as well.

The staggering economic growth of neo-liberal capitalism, coupled with the technological revolution have not only given the world unprecedented rates of change, but have also led to increasing social and economic division all over the world. Women have been aspiring for social, economic and political changes and achieving them for the last hundred years. Women have fought for changes and so are adapting to the overall environment of change much better than men. The fact that women at home are aspiring for change and adapting to change so easily also makes enemies out of them. This may explain some of the violence that is happening at home and in the community. At the same time men’s inability to cope with change sometimes induces a deep sense of failure. Failure is a phenomenon men are not trained to deal with. From childhood onwards success is the only credo they have learnt – in school, in the field, in the battle field. Believing that a man who has lost has no honour, many failed farmers in India have opted for suicide, leaving their families to manage their inherited debt. Women, better trained to manage failure, and continue on in their absence.

Where does this analysis leave us in our dealings with men? What pathways to a different future does it indicate? Some of us who have been engaged in women’s empowerment have been experimenting with how to work with men as allies in this process. In the last two decades or so we have learnt some lessons about how we may work towards a better future.

Many men find the incidents of violence that I mentioned in the first paragraph ‘upsetting’, or ‘gross’, or ‘unacceptable’. It is a matter of hope that there are such men, because in this feeling of disquiet is the seed of a new understanding of human relations. In many cases this sense of disquiet is followed by a rationalization that such violence happens among ‘others,’ or by avoiding such news, or in some cases by  an intellectual discussion about the state of the world which creates sufficient distance between such events and our personal world to render them harmless.

The beginning to a different future lies in the acknowledgment that the problem is not in ‘those’ men or communities, but in the men we ourselves bring up -- our boys -- through our own unconscious reinforcement of hegemonic masculinity. The most enlightened parent concerned about equality between the sexes will say “I bring up my daughter like a son” but it is never the reverse. Boys are never taught the values of nurturing and empathy, of managing adversity and failure, and to manage for themselves. Among all classes it is nearly universal for a boy not to clean his own dishes or his own clothes. This is not just a training for future participation in domestic work but  a valuable lesson in self-sufficiency. Of course there is a pressure to succeed, but rarely an emphasis on collaboration, cooperation or respect for others. Equally if not even more important is the need to train boys to manage disappointment.

Now let me come to the afore-mentioned discussions I’ve had with leaders of development organisations and the problem that they see women in their communities facing. Here too the solution does not lie in the most obvious approaches, i.e., asking men to loosen control at home and to protect women in public places. These approaches, as I mentioned earlier, can inadvertently create greater paternalistic concern and control.

We have found through our work that to create greater gender collaboration between women and men we need to work from the place where there is the least contest. In the typical patriarchal set-up, public space belongs to men and private space is the women’s domain, but under masculine control. This control is maintained either directly or indirectly through other senior women like the mother-in-law. There is little interaction between women and men, even husbands and wives, in the home or personal space. An obvious symptom of this dynamic is men not sharing housework. However, even child care is often the sole domain of women. In rural India we have found that there are many physical barriers between husbands and wives interacting with any degree of intimacy. Similarly, brothers and sisters often drift apart after puberty. Fathers are not close to young children, since the latter reside within the women’s domain and only when sons become men through a coming-of-age ritual does the ‘man-to-man’ bond strengthen. We have found some men regret the lack of closer interaction with their wives, with their daughters, or even their sisters and sisters-in-law.

In our work we have found that building closer relations with women at home has enabled men to understand the value of empathy. In forging closer relations with their children, men have come to value the virtues of care, nurture and sharing. And this has happened with adult men in their twenties and thirties, and even older. In addition, men can be encouraged to develop a new sense of fairness which is able to see through the limitations of social arrangements of patriarchy. Taking this a step forward, we have successfully encouraged men to take stands on caste and religious discrimination as well. But the initial step was taken via the roles and relations in the family.

I have heard friends say that this kind of work is essentially ‘reformist’ and not sufficiently political, as it does not adequately address deeply ingrained power inequalities embedded in society. Others have said that it lays too much emphasis on the private and personal sphere and not the public or political space. I hear them and I understand their anxiety. My justification of our approach is not only through my own personal practice and some small- and large-scale community-based interventions, but also draws on a nuanced understanding of power and privilege and how it is exercised and experienced.

A politically-sound approach towards social justice or an envisioned world with less violence and more mediated solutions to it cannot come from work with the violent and the under- privileged alone. Many political movements have been born from a sense of injustice and claims for rights and justice. However, acknowledgement of this reality requires people in positions of power and privilege to change their own actions and exercise of power accordingly. In the battlefield the loser loses power; in a negotiated settlement a third party is often asked to mediate so that there is acceptable ‘loss of face’ for the party which is required to cede most in the settlement.

In society there is often no third party. To get where we want to get – to gender equality - men need to give up their positions of authority, which requires first that they acknowledge that their present advantages of power and privilege are often one-sided and lead to the subordination of others. But they have never given up power without loss of face. At home and within intimate relationships they can give up power without loss of face and become used to a sense of comfort without wielding power and authority. This can serve as is valuable practice for creative use of men’s ability to share power and yield authority in public spaces without a sense of loss. We have seen it happen, over and over and in different situations.

We believe that there is no better time than the present to take these lessons to scale. If we feel that what we see around is unacceptable, if we believe in the fundamental equality among all humans, then we can adopt these simple ways of behaving towards others and the way we raise our children, especially our boys. In it lies the only hope for the profound changes that we all want to see for the world which we leave behind for our children. If you agree, share this with you friends.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"I can do it all by myself:" Why increased male caregiving may find resistance from women

By Oswaldo Montoya

Oswaldo Montoya
I found Bayano Valy’s post, Men seeing themselves as full partners in care work, very revealing. It makes us think about the complexity of working with men to transform patriarchal relations with women. In its intervention “Men in the Kitchen,” Rede HOPEM of Mozambique combines skill building, related to domestic chores and attitudinal change, in turn related to gender and masculinity, so that doing care work is not seen by men merely as supporting women but as a joint responsibility. HOPEM is enabling men to move from a helping-out mentality to the equal sharing of caregiving work in an effort to challenge power relations among genders.

Bayano points out the apparent contradictory responses from most women when their male partners engaged in care work. Some women felt “an invasion of their private space,” he reports; others even questioned their partners’ manhood as a result of their performing domestic work.

The solution proposed is to engage women in gender work as well, using gender-synchronised approaches. I agree with this conclusion, however I think it is important to dig deeper about why men encounter resistance from women when they increase their involvement in house care work. Are we really challenging power relations when we support men assuming 50 percent of care work? Is it really gender transformative when men discard the helping-out mentality and fully embrace care work? My hypothesis is, we may be challenging these power relations, but we may not, too.

Patriarchy has a tremendous capacity to re-accommodate in times of gender-roles change. In some contexts, the fact that men do care work in similar amounts as women may not necessarily equalize power among them. Actually, it may exacerbate power differentials, with men gaining more legitimacy and self-sufficiency. Men’s egos can become further inflated by such an “I can do it all by myself” mentality, thus relegating women to more marginalized positions.

Therefore, we not only have to think about sensitizing women to the need to appreciate, and not feel threatened by, men’s involvement in care work. We also need to keep raising awareness among men in relation to the meanings attached to their new domestic practices. We men should not be in competition with women about who is more capable or who does more care work. It is not from such a patriarchal sense of rivalry that we should engage in this work. If done that way, there is a greater chance that women will resist our efforts, and will regard them as an invasion.

In addition to working with men on these deeper meanings, it is important that our work with men also enable them to support women’s economic empowerment and other forms of women’s empowerment that expand their horizons. If projects focused on changing men lack efforts to empower women, then women may indeed resist changes to the domestic gender order, in which the kitchen has been one of their few spaces of sovereignty. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Men seeing themselves as full partners in care work

by Bayano Valy

Bayano Valy
Anecdotal evidence in Mozambique shows that there are men who perform care and household workbelieving they are helping their partners – this is grounded in evidence from pre- and post-evaluation courses of the programme “Men in the Kitchen.”  

“Men in the Kitchen” is a programme designed and implemented by Rede HOPEM (Men for Change) which seeks to challenge power relations by getting men to question hegemonic masculinities using a gender transformative approach. The course has trained more than 200 men since its inception in 2014. Alongside “Men in the Kitchen”, the men are trained in further care work such as child care through their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The men who participate in the courses say they are more than interested in gender-progressive activities within the household but are not exactly comfortable expressing such behaviour publicly due to societal pressure.

Incidentally, when the men come in to hone their skills, they believe they are doing so in order to better “help” their partners. It is after going through the theoretical component of the programmes that they realise that as men doing care and household work, they are not helping but sharing the house care workload.

This notion is dispelled in the courses. Rather, they should in fact increase their workload within the household in order to promote gender equality. The courses also encourage them to develop their abilities in the household and make choices to continue doing the work without regard to societal pressure, stereotypes and prejudices, as well as lead them to realise that it is their responsibility to work in the household as full partners.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of male involvement in gender promotion is that men themselves stand to gain much from a gender-equal society. However, this is still a tough sell for most men brought up in a society in which patriarchy still reigns supreme – not only is swimming against the patriarchal tide socially costly but it also requires a support network which is still incipient.

Paradoxically, the people who should real be the happier from the toils of their men-folk in care and household work seem to be ambivalent. When consulted months after taking part in the courses, a larger group of men said that their partners saw their newfound enthusiasm for engaging in care work as an invasion of their private space. A smaller group reported that their womenfolk were happy to see the transformation.

But worryingly, a third group said that their partners were questioning their manhood, and rather than welcoming the change, they started displaying hegemonic masculinity traits – maybe this is because the only reference women have of “leadership” are men who are constrained by the ossified edifice of patriarchy.

What the evaluations suggest is that that there is a need for the implementation of gender synchronised approaches in order to ensure that their partners encourage them to share the workload rather than question their manhood or even belittle them.

It is crucially to put in place strategies for the creation of an enabling environment for men who seek to break away from the yoke of patriarchy. Such spaces could simply be club houses where men could go and mingle with other like-minded men, as well as share their experiences.

That is likely to ensure that not only more and more men perform care and household work but do so in the knowledge that their work is appreciated by their partners and society, and that they are not helpers but partners who want to achieve gender equality in all aspects of the concept.


Bayano Valy is the Advocacy, Research and Network Programme Manager for Rede HOPEM and a proudly avowed feminist. In his previous life he worked as a journalist tackling a plethora of issues with a focus on politics, economics, gender and development. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The promotion of positive masculinities in public policies: the experience of Instituto WEM and the Costa Rican MenEngage Network

by Alvaro Campos Guadamuz
Founder and President, InstitutoCostarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad (Instituto WEM)

[Versión en Español abajo.]

Alvaro Campos Guadamuz
Costa Rica continues to advance in designing public policies favoring equality between women and men and in the eradication of violence against women. Undoubtedly the woman’s rights movement merits the greatest credit for these advances. The work that the Costa Rican MenEngage Network and Instituto WEM have done, promoting positive masculinities in young and adult men, brings its bit to these successes, especially by involving men in these social changes.

The Instituto WEM is the coordinator of the Costa Rican MenEngage Network (RMECR) and the focal point for the White Ribbon, Paternal Leave and Men’s Health campaigns. IWEM offers personal growth groups for adult men and adolescents, as well as public education called “Men’s School”, which examines with men themes from their everyday lives. In addition, we have positioned the masculinities component into the national public agenda and in dialogues with feminist and governmental institutions whose mission is gender equity and work with women, in this case the National Women's Institute - INAMU.

Since 2013 we have been advocating for the Positive Masculinity component to be added to the public agenda and in state-institution work plans. This allows for political influence beyond the work done with men’s groups by creating public policy and pilot programming in best practices for equality.  These processes are:

  • Men’s Health Act passed in 2013. This law encompasses a broad concept of men’s health, including aspects having to do with changes in lifestyle characteristics of hegemonic masculinity and promotion of emotional ties that foster peaceful coexistence. The same act proposes the formulation of a National Men’s Health Policy and regulation. At this time, the final version of the regulation is being completed for submission for national review.
  • National Policy for the Promotion of Positive Masculinity and the prevention of Men’s Violence towards Women, currently being produced.  The state, through the INAMU, has entrusted Instituto WEM to develop this policy, which will be part of the National System for Attention to and Prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in Costa Rica (PALNOVI). The formulation of this policy has involved IWEM and RMECR in an intense process of dialogue, consultation and reflection with Costa Rican institutions, feminist and other sectors.
  • The “Primary Prevention of Violence at the Local Community Level” Program, sponsored by the National Institute for Women, is a program in which non-governmental organizations working with distinct populations and issues participate with IWEM, and from which it aims to build a model of community work.
  • The MACHIS-NO Program and Campaign. This program aims to prevent violence in the context of soccer, supported by the state and involving all the first-division Costa Rican soccer clubs, from major to minor leagues. IWEM is commissioned to design and implement the training, which will take place within the 12 stadiums of the first division (for football captains, coaches, administrative personnel and players from all clubs). This campaign will culminate in the adoption of a code of ethics by the football players, the basis of which will be the Global MenEngage Code of Ethics.

It should be added that the innovation in this entire advocacy experience resulted from the recognition of research, publications, recommendations and calls to action that MenEngage Alliance and its Latin American network promoted through the Global Symposia (Brazil, 2009; New Delhi, 2014) and International Symposia on Men and Masculinity. And, the contribution of the three international campaigns (White Ribbon, Men Care Parental Leave and Men’s Sexual and Reproductive Health), as well as the MenEngage Code of Conduct, are the basis for documents being developed to support these policies and programs.

This advocacy work has been very important to show that there exists some lack of trust towards the work that men’s organization can carry out in the name of equity/equality and the eradication/prevention of violence against women. MenEngage is not only an alliance of organizations; it is also an ideological and ethical framework to guide us toward and from which to work with men. The harmony and solidarity with feminism and human rights, as well as calls to action during the international meetings promoted by MenEngage, have made some Costa Rican government civil society sectors and the women's movement see work with men more reliably and visualize men as allies of equity and in the culture of peace.

Partnerships with feminism and the women's movement

Advocacy in support of a masculinities component should be done in partnership or dialogue with feminism and the women’s movement. In fact, from an ideological point of view, work with masculinities and men has as its goal the dismantling of the system and patriarchal order, with its corresponding sexist, adult-centered, discriminatory and homophobic order. Overcoming gender inequities and injustices is the objective of the work.

We endorse the call to action following the declaration of Rio de Janeiro (2009):

“Work with men and boys comes from and honors the pioneering work and ongoing leadership of the women's movement and feminist. (…) Working in close synergy with women’s rights organizations, we seek to change attitudes and practices of individual men, and to transform the imbalance of power between men and women in relationships, families, communities, institutions and nations."

Work with men must respect, support and strengthen women’s rights, and abide by the international commitments of the United Nations. These commitments urge us to take actions to involve men and boys in achieving gender equality. The alliance with feminism requires time, dialogue, flexibility and negotiation. As suggested by the feminist Escalante (2002), "To achieve equity, to change the power relations between the sexes, we must include discussion about men and masculinity. The problem is the traditional roles, not the men. " And the author concludes as follows:

"From my perspective, work with men should be based on the following ethical principles:

  • Recognition that masculinity studies and work with men has emerged and developed through its link to the process of struggle for equality provided by women's movements and feminism.
  • Research on masculinity and work with men should be the initiative and primary responsibility of men, without excluding the contribution of women who are interested in this topic.
  • Groups or movements of men who should be supported or promoted are those who seek change towards gender equality and not those who seek to maintain or reproduce patriarchal oppression.
  • Those who work on masculinity and men should maintain an open and respectful dialogue with those working on femininity and with women.
  • This work should be guided by what Marcela Lagarde proposes as an ethic based on solidarity and cooperation, equal opportunities, equitable distribution of goods and positive powers, processes of individualization and community approach, as well as social and political participation as a way to ensure political democracy and a regime of respected rights. "

 For IWEM, building public policies that encourage new masculinities is framed as a political project, and at the same time as a humanist project in search of meaning, in the construction of the "new man". Osho (2014) suggests that it is not about being a better man; it is about being a new man. We cannot build public policy without this dimension of utopia. And so, it is enshrined in a revolutionary project of a society without patriarchy.

La promoción de las masculinidades positivas en las políticas públicas: Experiencia del Instituto WEM y la Red MenEngage en Costa Rica

por Alvaro Campos Guadamuz
Presidente y Fundador del InstitutoCostarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad (Instituto WEM)

Alvaro Campos Guadamuz
Costa Rica sigue avanzando en el diseño de políticas públicas favorecedoras de la igualdad entre mujeres y hombres y de la erradicación de la violencia contra las mujeres. Sin duda, el movimiento por los derechos de las mujeres merece el mayor crédito por estos avances. El trabajo que hemos hecho desde la Red MenEngage Costa Rica y el Instituto WEM, promoviendo masculinidades positivas en los hombres jóvenes y adultos, aporta su grano de arena a estos logros, sobre todo en cuanto a involucrar a los hombres en estos cambios sociales.

El Instituto WEM es el punto focal y coordinador de la Red Men Engage en Costa Rica (RMECR) y el punto focal de las campañas Lazo Blanco, Paternidades y Salud Masculina. WEM ofrece grupos de crecimiento personal para hombres adultos y adolescentes, así como una oferta de Educación popular llamada “Escuela para hombres”, en la cual se revisan con los hombres temáticas de su vida cotidiana. Hemos además posicionado el componente masculinidades en la agenda pública nacional y en diálogos con el feminismo y las instituciones gubernamentales que tienen como misión la equidad de género y el trabajo con las mujeres, en este caso el Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres – INAMU-.

Desde el 2013 estamos aportando incidiendo para que el componente Masculinidades Positivas exista  en la agenda pública y en los planes de trabajo de las instituciones del estado.  Esto permite incidir políticamente más allá del trabajo con grupos de hombres, mediante la creación de políticas públicas y programas demostrativos de buenas prácticas de equidad. Dichos procesos son los siguientes:

  • Ley de Salud Masculina, aprobada en el 2013.   Esta ley propone un concepto amplio de salud masculina,  ya que se incluyen aspectos que tienen que ver con cambios en los estilos de vida propios de la masculinidad hegemónica y de promoción de vínculos afectivos que propicien una convivencia pacífica. La misma ley propone la formulación de una Política Nacional de Salud Masculina y un reglamento. En estos momentos se está concluyendo la versión del reglamento para someter a consulta nacional.
  • Política Nacional para el Fomento de Masculinidades Positivas y prevención de la violencia masculina hacia las mujeres, en proceso de producción.  El estado, a través del INAMU, encarga al Instituto WEM la elaboración de dicha política que será parte del  Sistema Nacional para la Atención y Prevención de la Violencia contra las Mujeres y Violencia Intrafamiliar de Costa Rica (PLANOVI).  La formulación de esta política ha implicado para el IWEM y la RMECR un proceso intenso de dialogo, consulta, reflexión, con la institucionalidad costarricense, el feminismo  y sectores diversos de la realidad nacional.
  • El Programa “Prevención Primaria de la Violencia en el nivel local comunitario”, auspiciado por el Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, es un programa en el que participan otras organizaciones no gubernamentales que trabajan con otras poblaciones y temas, junto con el IWEM, programa desde el cual  se pretende construir un modelo de trabajo comunitario.       
  • El Programa y Campaña “MACHIS-NO”.  Este programa busca prevenir la violencia en el contexto del futbol, apoyado desde el estado e involucrando a todos los clubes de la primera división de futbol costarricense, desde ligas mayores hasta ligas menores. Le encargan al IWEM el diseño y ejecución de la capacitación que se va a desarrollar en los 12 estadios de la primera división (los capitanes de futbol, directores técnicos, personal administrativo y jugadores de todos los clubes).  Esta campaña culmina con la adopción de un código de ética por parte de los jugadores de fútbol, cuya base será el Código de Ética de Men Engage Global.

Cabe agregar que lo innovador de toda esta experiencia de incidencia política es que se ha hecho un reconocimiento de las investigaciones, publicaciones, recomendaciones y llamados a la acción que la Red MenEngage Global y Latinoamericana ha promovido a través de  los  Simposios Globales (Brasil, 2009; New Delhi, 2014) y los Coloquios Internacionales sobre Varones y Masculinidades.  Y el aporte de las tres campañas internacionales (Lazo Blanco, Paternidades –Men Care y Salud Sexual reproductiva, al igual que el Código de Conducta de Men Engage son la base para los documentos que se están elaborando para sustentar dichas políticas y programas.

Este trabajo de incidencia política ha sido muy importante para evidenciar que existe aún desconfianza hacia el trabajo que pueden llevar a cabo las organizaciones de hombres por la equidad/igualdad y por la erradicación/prevención de la violencia machista.  MenEngage no es solamente una alianza de organizaciones, es también un referente ideológico y ético que guía hacia dónde y desde dónde se debe trabajar con los hombres.  La sintonía y solidaridad con el feminismo y los derechos humanos, así como los llamados a la acción de los Encuentros Internacionales promovidos por MenEngage han hecho en Costa Rica   algunos sectores gubernamentales, de la sociedad civil y del movimiento de mujeres miren  de manera más confiable al trabajo con los hombres y visualicen a los hombres como aliados de la equidad y la cultura de paz.  

Las articulaciones con el feminismo y el movimiento de mujeres

Las acciones de incidencia política en favor del componente masculinidades deben hacerse en alianza o en diálogo con el feminismo y el movimiento de mujeres.  De hecho, desde el punto de vista ideológico, el trabajo con las masculinidades y con los hombres que se desea impulsar es aquel que  tiene como utopía política la desarticulación del sistema y orden patriarcal, con su correspondiente orden de género sexista, adultocéntrico, discriminatorio y homofóbico.  La superación de las inequidades e injusticias de género es el norte del trabajo.

Hacemos nuestro el siguiente llamado a la acción de la declaración de Río de Janeiro (2009):

“El trabajo con hombres y niños proviene y honra el trabajo pionero y el liderazgo continuo de los movimientos de mujeres y feministas. (…). Trabajando en estrecha sinergia con las organizaciones de derechos de las mujeres buscamos cambiar las actitudes y prácticas de hombres individuales, y transformar el desequilibrio de poder entre hombres y mujeres en las relaciones, familias, comunidades, instituciones y naciones”.

El trabajo con hombres debe respetar, apoyar y fortalecer los derechos de las mujeres, y acatar los compromisos Internacionales de Naciones Unidades.  Estos compromisos instan a tomar acciones para   involucrar a hombres y niños en el logro de la equidad de género. La  alianza con el feminismo requiere tiempo, diálogo, flexibilidad, negociación.  Como lo plantea la feminista Escalante (2002), Para lograr la equidad, para cambiar las relaciones de poder entre los sexos, hay que incluir discusión sobre los hombres y la masculinidad.  El problema son los roles tradicionales, no los hombres.”. Y la autora concluye de la siguiente manera.

“Desde mi perspectiva, el trabajo con los hombres debe basarse en los siguientes principios éticos:

  • Partir del reconocimiento de que los estudios sobre la masculinidad y el trabajo con los hombres ha surgido y se ha desarrollado vinculado al proceso de lucha por la igualdad que han dado los movimientos de mujeres y feministas.
  • La investigación sobre la masculinidad y el trabajo con hombres debe ser iniciativa y responsabilidad principal de los hombres, sin excluir el aporte de las mujeres que tengan interés en este tema.
  • Los grupos o movimientos de hombres que se deben apoyar o promover son aquellos que buscan el cambio hacia la equidad de género y no los que buscan mantener o reproducir la opresión patriarcal.
  • Quienes trabajan sobre la masculinidad y con los hombres debe mantener un diálogo abierto y respetuoso con quienes trabajan sobre la feminidad y con las mujeres.
  • Este trabajo debe estar orientado por lo que propone Marcela Lagarde como una ética basada en la solidaridad y la cooperación, la igualdad de oportunidades, la distribución equitativa de los bienes y poderes positivos, los procesos de individualización y de acercamiento comunitarios, así como la participación social y política como vía para asegurar la democracia política y un régimen de derechos respetados.”

 Construir políticas públicas que fomenten nuevas masculinidades se enmarca, para el IWEM, en un proyecto político y a la vez en un proyecto humanista de búsqueda de sentido, en la construcción del “hombre nuevo”. Osho (2014) plantea que no se trata de un hombre mejorado, se trata de un hombre nuevo. No podemos construir políticas públicas sin esta dimensión de la utopía. Así se engarza en un proyecto revolucionario, de una sociedad sin patriarcado.  



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Transforming masculinities: the twists and turns of feminist men's history in the Caribbean

By Dr. Gabrielle Hosein

Gabrielle Hosein
Last Thursday, students in my Men and Masculinities in the Caribbean course engaged in pro-feminist men’s movement building on the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine campus, Trinidad and Tobago. They created games, posters, pamphlets and popular theatre that tackled issues related to fatherhood, violence, pornography, suicide, health, homophobia and popular culture. This assignment aimed to create peer learning outside of the classroom, challenging students’ real-life capacity to explain patriarchy as a source of both men’s privilege and pain.

There are many kinds of men’s movements, differentiated by their politics regarding race, sexuality, capitalism, militarism, religion and women-led feminist struggles. Pro-feminist men’s movements, which are also called feminist men’s movements, are not motivated by a desire to return women to ‘traditional’ or subordinate roles. They are not compelled by competition with women in the struggle for rights nor by an empirically-unfounded position that women now have too much power and men are the ‘real’ victims. Thus, such men’s movements are best for achieving gender justice, which requires us to dismantle and transform the hierarchies created by our ideals of manhood and womanhood.

While masculinity studies seems new, the study of men in the Caribbean emerged in earlier studies on the family. Since at the least the 1930s, anthropologists looked at Afro-Caribbean families, which didn’t fit colonial nuclear-family models, and concluded that men were marginal to them. Later feminist scholarship debunked that, arguing that while Afro-Caribbean fathers may not reside within families, which may therefore end up mother-centred, other men such as sons, uncles, brothers and grandfathers were not marginal to family life at all.

By the 1980s, a new discourse, not of marginality, but of marginalization was introduced. It argued that women’s gains were a direct consequence of black men being held back from advancement in the teaching profession in Jamaica. Men were being marginalized to keep them subordinated and prevent them from threatening colonial rule, it claimed. Despite the inaccuracy of this interpretation, and its denial of women’s own efforts to advance in the labour market, the myth of male marginalization caught fire across the Anglophone region as those who saw women’s advances in terms of men’s feelings of emasculation found a flag to wave in backlash to Caribbean feminism.

Nonetheless, from Jamaica to Trinidad were experiments with pro-feminist men’s organizing. Anyone active in men’s movement building in 1990s Trinidad and Tobago would remember MAVAW, Men Against Violence Against Women. UWI Lecturer Jerome Teelucksingh revived International Men’s Day commemorations on November 19th, his dad’s birthday, to mobilize men to improve gender relations and promote gender equality, through a focus on men’s health, positive male role models, and men’s contributions to community and family.  

Unfortunately, the turn of the century witnessed an about-face by campus principals, state bureaucrats, politicians, policy makers and fathers’ groups.  A language of ‘balance’ began to displace one of equity. A vocal men’s rights movement emerged, increasingly attacking rather than collaborating with feminists. A once visible (pro-)feminist men’s movement shrank, leaving those men who continued to invest in challenging patriarchal relations feeling isolated, and reproducing the fear, shame, silence that Michael Kimmel describes. That said, a vibrant gay men’s movement emerged in this very period, but it too gets little love from the men’s rights approach. This is one example of where pro-feminist men’s movements can take responsibility for challenging men’s rights groups as well as discrimination that men still face.

This turn ignored women’s long solidarity with men’s movement-building, and men’s solidarities with women’s rights in the region. In the 1990s, I often worked with young male activists from the YMCA who sought to transform masculinities to create a kinder, gentler world for subordinated boys. Women in UN organizations and university departments generated funds and developed curricula for masculinity studies, facilitated workshops for men, established peace-building programmes, and supported networking amongst men across the region. Neither the women nor men always got it right, but we were not enemies. Rather, we shared struggles from different, contradictory and shifting sites of power.

In a globally right-wing moment, it remains necessary to mentor men and women to change the nexus of power, privilege, pain and powerlessness in boys and men’s lives. My students engage in pro-feminist movement building to better understand the project of men’s movements, like women’s movements, to fairly and lovingly value us all simply because we are human. When that pedagogy works, it garlands the bread of solidarity with roses of hope.