Man in Box

Man in Box

Monday, September 28, 2015

Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality

edited by Jerker Edstrom, Alexa Hassink, Thea Shahrokh and Erin Stern, September 2015.


Designed to help answer the question, ‘what works best when it comes to engaging men and
boys for gender equality?’, this evidence review critically assesses trends and shifts in
related social norms and structures over the past 20 years, successful policies and
programmes and implications for best practice, and future directions for promoting men’s and boys’ support for gender equality across a variety of priority thematic areas.

Each of the [nine] chapters reviews the changes that have taken place in the past 20
years across one thematic area, and the roles played by formal and informal institutions and
policies in these changes. This framework is used to set the broader context for the
discussion, which subsequently looks at specific programmes and policies supporting
changes in gender relations, including those that focus on women and girls, as well as those
that are not specifically aimed at gender equality.

Finally, implications, questions and priorities for learning, gaps in evidence and knowledge
are highlighted. The goal is to move beyond a narrow individualistic programmatic focus and
attempt to achieve a broader and more comprehensive understanding of the interplay between laws, policies and institutional practices in achieving gender equality and the most effective pathways for sustainable change that take into account individual, community and
structural factors. The chapters cover themes as follows:

1.  Introduction: Framing the evidence and shifting social norms
2.  Poverty, work and employment
3.  Fatherhood, unpaid care and the care economy
4.  Education
5.  Sexual health and rights
6.  Health and wellbeing
7.  Sexual and gender-based violence
8.  Conflict, security and peace-building
9.  Public and political participation

This evidence review is part of a two-year learning and evidence project, EMERGE – or ‘Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Gender Equality’ – being undertaken by the
Institute of Development Studies, Promundo-US and Sonke Gender Justice between
January 2014 and January 2016, with funding from the UK Department for International
Development (DFID). The evidence review, combined with other project elements, aims to
cultivate stronger leadership for working with boys and men to promote gender equality, by
gathering, interrelating, analysing and strategically disseminating evidence and lessons in
targeted and accessible formats for improved learning, policy and practice.

Chapter abstracts

Chapter 1  Introduction - Framing the evidence and shifting social norms
What are social and gender norms and how do they change? What are some of the broad trends that drive and constrain progress towards gender equality? More than 20 years have passed since men’s roles, responsibilities and potential contributions were first recognised as a critical component in the fight to achieve gender equality. While globally during this time, values in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment have been trending upwards, full gender equality is still far from realised. Harmful gender norms remain entrenched in many cultures across the world. Changing the way men accept and live gender equality in their own lives is part of a broader social and political process of change.

This chapter explores the broader processes that drive and constrain change across education, health, caregiving, political and economic participation and more. It explores how long-standing gender norms and expectations are informed and reinforced by social groups and institutions, and embedded in social and power relations. It provides context as to how
large social, political and economic forces drive change at both the societal and individual
levels, and outlines promising interventions, gaps and blind spots, and recommendations for
the future of the field.

Chapter 2  Poverty, work and employment
Globalisation and macroeconomic policy over the past 30 years have increased women’s
participation in formal and informal paid work, whilst their responsibilities in unpaid domestic work have not been significantly reduced. Many other gendered economic inequalities remain (such as in pay, land rights and inheritance) and there is a mismatch between increases in women’s economic assets and other expressions of empowerment including decision-making and participation in public and political life. Evidence shows a range of roles for men in women’s economic empowerment from obstructive through to supportive, and it highlights the importance of understanding contextual and cultural notions of gender and masculinity for economic change. Experiences of engaging men in programmes for women’s economic empowerment, predominantly through microcredit, show positive outcomes in women’s psychological wellbeing, household relations and economic empowerment. The significance of specific strategies for working with men however is less well understood.

Future research should explore policy and programme responses that take into account men
and gender relations at greater scale. There is also a need for more research on men and
masculinities in ‘power’, ‘at work’ and ‘in policy’, and to unpack the relationship between
gender equality and national and international models for economic development.

Chapter 3  Fatherhood, unpaid care and the care economy
How have social and gender norms around fatherhood, caregiving and unpaid work shifted in
the past 20 years? How do men’s roles as caregivers impact gender equality more broadly?
With women now representing 40 per cent of the paid workforce, men have also begun to
play a larger role in care work. However, there is still much to be done. Women are still
spending one to three more hours each day on housework and two to ten times as much
time on caring for a child or older person than men. To advance gender equality, the burden
of care work on women must be alleviated and redistributed equally between men and

This chapter will provide an overview of some of the broad shifts in unpaid care work and men’s caregiving at the international, national, local and individual levels. It will look at successful and promising policies that seek to create systemic shifts in the care work dynamic, including paid, non-transferable paternity leave, and other policies tailored to informal work economies. Finally, it will provide programmatic strategies that have been successful in engaging men to shift gender norms around fatherhood, caregiving and balancing the care divide.

Chapter 4  Education
What is the transformative function of education to challenge patriarchal power relations
learned and reproduced in school settings? This chapter explores recent trends and shifts in
gender and education, reviews educational sector efforts, teacher trainings, curriculums and
policies that have sought to or have evidence of transforming gender inequalities and harmful
gender norms in schools. The chapter also considers strategies to engage parents and
community members within the education system for gender-transformative efforts and
pedagogical approaches that adopt a more gender-equitable teaching–learning experience.

How young people and teachers construct their gendered identities in schools and how forms
of school violence are deeply rooted in unequal gender relations and constraints, including
heternormativity, are explored. Limitations of the emphasis on numerical equity in schools for achieving gender transformation and justice are unpacked. There is a particular dearth of in depth longitudinal studies to assess how educational interventions influence the gendered
experiences of students, teacher and educational outcomes, and how gender equality
educational work with boys influences girls’ empowerment. More research is also needed on
how addressing violence can keep boys and girls in schools, on boys’ gendered experiences
at schools including violence and bullying, and on the gender-related conditions that
encourage this and/or hinder responses.

Chapter 5  Sexual health and rights
What are the most effective and promising approaches to transform norms of masculinity that have been found to influence men’s sexual attitudes and behaviours, including their utilisation of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services?

This chapter reviews recent trends around the promotion of men’s sexual health and rights in ways that advance gender equality and support the SRH of girls and women, and how institutions, including political, religious, and health systems, have influenced these shifts. Key areas of concern for promoting men’s sexual health and rights are how to promote and ensure the sustainability of long-term attitude and behaviour change regarding men’s sexual health, which require more large-scale, long-term evaluations. For both men and women, there is a limited understanding of how sexuality intersects with SRH, and more grounded, ethnographic research on men’s SRH is required to better understand the cultural, social, and economic drivers behind men’s SRH, and the diversity of men’s sexual identities, practices, and relations. Such insights are critical for related policy, programming, and structural interventions. Prioritising quality, equality, and accountability for men’s sexual health to meet their own, as well as the SRH needs and rights of girls and women, is warranted.

Chapter 6  Health and wellbeing
What are the most promising and effective ways to challenge dominant constructions of
masculinity, such as notions of invulnerability and the promotion of risk-taking, which
influence men’s poor health and excess mortality? This chapter explores gendered disparities in health and wellbeing, including the complexity and diversity of men’s health in relation to women and girls, and how these are influenced by relational, institutional and structural factors. A review of institutions and policies that have supported and/or hindered men’s health and wellbeing including access to health care is offered, and how they can best respond to the ways that social, economic and political dynamics encourage men to compromise their health and public health more broadly.

The current stock of knowledge in the area of men’s health provides a limited basis for meeting men’s health needs, and for comprehensively evaluating programmatic and structural interventions to improve men’s health. Further evidence is needed to assess how efforts to improve men’s health behaviours and gender attitudes influence women’s health and wellbeing, using a gender relational approach.

Chapter 7  Sexual and gender-based violence
Three reasons to focus on men in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) include that:
perpetrators of violence are overwhelmingly men and boys; constructions of masculinity work across individual to societal levels, driving gendered violence, and; violence is also of concern to men and boys. The evidence reviewed in this chapter reveals a series of key
findings, including that a focus on attitudes alone neglects the structural violence and
institutional inequalities which are shaping SGBV. Programmes explicitly addressing norms,
behaviours, and relations associated with ideals of manhood can indeed be gender
transformative, but with important caveats. For example, men and boys should not be treated
as a homogenous group, and programming must not reinforce binaries between men and
women. Strategies need to address harmful masculinities rather than merely behaviours or
attitudes. This requires engaging both men and women to challenge deeply held beliefs at
the personal level, and connecting specific programmes with enabling processes of wider
social change. Such enabling strategies should address the underlying drivers of violence,
including socio-economic inequalities and institutionalised discrimination. Future research
should include exploration of gendered power differences intersecting with other inequalities,
whilst context-specific longitudinal research on transitions to adulthood should be developed
alongside long-term programme evaluations.

Chapter 8  Conflict, security and peace-building
How do experiences of conflict and peace-building affect men and women differently? What
can be done to ensure that after conflict, communities establish sustainable peace and codify
gender equality? Violent conflict can have devastating emotional, physical and economic
impacts on the lives of all of those involved. With the understanding that men and women
face death and displacement, violence, economic failures and health in distinctly gendered
ways, the ways in which individuals, groups, policymakers and governments have approached and analysed conflict over the past 20 years has evolved greatly. This has brought increased attention to women’s and men’s varied experiences during and post conflict, including roles of violence perpetration, victimisation and peace-building. This chapter presents some of the broad shifts in the past 20 years with regard to trends in conflict and peace-building and their influence on gender roles and dynamics. It presents examples of policy solutions, including those to eradicate sexual violence in conflict by labelling and prosecuting it as a war crime and those promoting women’s participation in peace-building. It also presents programmatic strategies to engage men thoughtfully for gender-equitable outcomes in conflict, peace-building and post-conflict through their various roles as perpetrators, victims, leaders, and agents of change.

Chapter 9  Public and political participation
How can men’s control and domination of political and public spaces be transformed?
Quotas have improved women’s numerical representation in politics in most countries, but
this does not seem to radically shift patriarchal norms within institutions of power. Women’s
inclusion in social movements has often been instrumental or opportunistic, sometimes
reproducing gendered power imbalances. Men have reacted in different ways to women’s
increased public and political participation. Whilst men’s different material interests appear to
influence their support for or resistance to women’s participation, men can also gain from
equality due to relational and collective interests.

Evidence on effective strategies for men’s engagement in gender-equal public participation is sparse, but examples include: strategies in formal political institutions; strategies for women’s equal participation in wider social justice movements; and pro-feminist activism emerging from men’s engagement in addressing gender-based violence in community-based initiatives. However, there is a major gap in programming with men in support of women’s political empowerment, going beyond current programmes focused on interpersonal issues. There is a lack of evidence on effective approaches for increasing men’s active support for and engagement in women’s public participation, and we need better evidence on how institutions and their gender cultures can be reformed.

Full report: