Man in Box

Man in Box

Friday, April 08, 2016

I Just Joined the North American MenEngage Network

I don't often join organizations.  I don't think of myself as a 'joiner'.

I think that characteristic is due in part to the way many non-profit membership organizations tend to behave in the United States (I don't have any real knowledge about how wide spread this behavior is in other countries.)

I often get the sense that organizations invite me to join so that they can exploit me.

They clearly want me to join so they can raise money from me.  Perhaps, but surprisingly infrequently, they might want my volunteer labor or for me to show up at a demonstration or lobby day.  But almost never do they want my real participation.  It is like the last thing they want is a relationship with members that comes with responsibility.

Most significantly, insubstantial membership definition means no relationship to the governance of the organization. Glaringly many online organizations don't even reveal who are the people on their governing boards or how they elect/appoint their executive staff (let alone what their standards are for staff employment -- pay and benefits.)  Amazingly, their program may be about social justice and/or democracy and the organization doesn't find it important to publicize their policies regarding the relationship of members to governance, staff rights, and equity in employment practice.  With so little impulse for accountability are these really social justice organizations?

Given my assessment above, is it any wonder I am reluctant to join?  Why would I?


For about a year now I have been hearing from several men whose work on gender issues I greatly respect about the formation of the North American affiliate of the international network known as the MenEngage Alliance.   

Today I decided to take a look at the website of the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN).   I was so pleasantly surprised by what I found.  I had had the impression that the Network was for organizations only, but then I found that it was inviting individuals to become members.  When I looked (with my skeptical glasses on) into this possibility I found that they wanted prospective members to agree to a Core Principles statement and a Code of Conduct.

Once I took the time to read the Principles and the Code of Conduct I was very impressed.  There are fifteen principles listed and I found myself agreeing with every one.  Clearly, this was an organization ready made for me!  Then on to the Code of Conduct.  There are quite a few items in the Code, most having to do with favoring relationships of respect and equality among members.  In terms of the organization itself the last is probably most important:

Ensure Transparency at All LevelsMenEngage Alliance members will strive to be transparent, honest, fair and ethical in  all of its actions, including making public its sources of funding and annual budget  and spending, except in cases where the donor requests to remain anonymous. Transparency also means working collaboratively with local organizations in places where a MenEngage member or network exists.

I don't find many non-profits putting such out front.

Finally, regarding structure and governance this is what I found:

Operating Structure We have an operating structure that includes a Steering Committee and Working Groups. Any member of NAMEN can join a working group.  Steering committee members are elected for three year terms by the membership in the fall of each year.

Now that I am a member, I know the path to leadership in the organization in the event I am interested in that pursuit. Most membership organizations these days don't bother to tell you about such paths. Wonder why not?

In any case, I am so impressed by the Core Principles and Code of Conduct that I am reproducing them here. We need more non-profits to get serious about this kind of relationship with their members.

Members share the following core principles 

The MenEngage Steering Committee organizations and individuals are motivated to work collectively based on the following guiding principles:

  • Gender as relational: In their daily lives, women and men together experience and shape gender roles and relations. MenEngage believes that to transform gender relations, men and women must work together to redefine and build a more just and gender equitable world.
  • Challenging men’s violence against women and children: NAMEN is dedicated to engaging men and boys to end violence against women and children, including sexual assault and trafficking, and in questioning and challenging violent versions of manhood.
  • Challenge men’s violence against men: NAMEN is dedicated to address violence between men, including intimate partner violence, war and conflict, gang-based, bullying, and hate-based violence.
  • Promoting existing UN mandates: We are dedicated to engaging men and boys to fulfill the mandates, statements of action, and principles of ICPD,  CEDAW and CSW statements (48th session), and CRC and working collectively to encourage governments to do the same.
  • Engaging men as caregivers: We are dedicated to promoting more equitable and responsible participation by men and boys in caregiving, the care of children and domestic tasks.
  • Working as allies with existing women’s rights processes: We are committed to working as allies with women and women’s rights organizations to achieve equality for women and girls.
  • Sexual diversity and sexual rights: We are dedicated to promoting cultures of masculinities that respect sexual diversity and sexual and reproductive rights of all, and that engage men so that reproductive health and contraception are more evenly shared between men and women.
  • The vulnerabilities of men: The Network believes that the specific needs and experiences of men and boys have often not been well understood nor taken fully into account in the development of public policy or professional practice across a wide range of areas.   We believe that men and boys, while benefiting from sexism, are also made vulnerable by non-equitable and violent versions of manhood. Men and boys who do not adhere to “traditional” or stereotypical regimens of manhood are particularly vulnerable, even while they continue to receive the personal and institutional benefits their gender affords them.
  • Engaging men from a positive perspective: The Network believes that women and girls, boys and men, and the wider society would benefit from recognition of these issues and appropriate action to transform non-equitable and violent versions of manhood and redress power inequalities related to gender.   We seek to build examples of men acting in gender-equitable and non-violent ways and to imbed those values into institutional practices and public policies, thereby increasing our abilities to positively impact the lives of men and women, girls and boys.
  • Participation: The Network will strive to include and take into account the voices of men and women, boys and girls, at the community level, and the voices of community-level NGOs.
  • Non-discrimination: The Network will actively advocate against, question and seek to overcome, sexism, social exclusion, homophobia, racism or any form of discriminatory behavior against women or gay/bisexual/transgender men and women, or on any other basis. Whenever possible in our activities, programs, and advocacy actions we will seek to explore the intersections between these forms of discrimination and address their impact on gender equality, men’s violence against women, children, and intimate partners, and healthy masculinities.  
  • Transparency: The Network will be transparent, honest, fair and ethical in all of its actions, including making public its sources of funding and annual budget.
  • Collaboration: The MenEngage partners seek to work in collaboration, dialoguing openly about institutional differences and achieving consensus whenever possible.
  • Evidence base:  The MenEngage partners seek to build on evidence-based approaches to engaging men and boys based on the available research as well as experiences in the field.
  • Human rights perspective and life cycle approach:  The partners recognize the need to apply a human rights perspective in all their activities and to take into account a lifecycle and ecological approach that incorporates both the individual as well as the broader social and structural contexts that shape gender inequalities.

North American MenEngage Network
Members share the following Code of Conduct adopted by 
the Global MenEngage Alliance

Adopted 2-5-2014
Full version available for download


MenEngage is a global alliance of NGOs and UN agencies that seeks to engage boys and men to achieve gender equality. As such, all existing and incoming institutional members of the MenEngage Alliance must conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the values and principles of the alliance, including the individual/family level --- advancing gender equality, human rights and social justice.

1. Create Peaceful (and Equal) Professional Environments
MenEngage Alliance members spend countless hours every day, week and year working to achieve social justice in local communities and around the world. This same work ethic also applies to our own professional environments. MenEngage Alliance members do not tolerate harassment or threats in any form – verbal, physical, psychological, sexual or visual – that make others feel otherwise unsafe.
Organizationally, this means treating others (including women, children, LGBT individuals, persons with disabilities, etc.) as equals inside the office as well as in communities impacted (directly, as well as indirectly) by our activities, programs and projects. MenEngage Alliance members seek to work collaboratively, dialoguing openly about differences (institutional or otherwise) and achieve consensus building

2. Promote Gender Equality and Social Justice Outside the Workplace
The purpose of MenEngage Alliance is to promote gender equality and social justice, thus it is imperative for the proper functioning of the MenEngage Alliance, and for the maintenance of its integrity and good reputation, that members work with their staff to ensure they uphold principles of gender equality not only in their professional, but also personal lives. This means, but is not limited to, building relationships with women, children, transgender individuals and men founded upon respect, speaking out against violence and injustice in your community, sharing decision-making power with others, respecting human diversity in all its forms, and recognizing and upholding the rights of others in all circumstances, including humanitarian crises situations. It also means being critically aware of the interconnections between gender inequality and other prevalent social and structural injustices such as classism, racism, economic inequality, and homophobia.

3. Do Not Discriminate Against Others
No member of the MenEngage Alliance will discriminate against others for reasons pertaining to national origin, race, color, religion, gender, age, language, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic or marital status, nor for any other reason. Members who come across such instances of discrimination against women, children, LGBT, or any others will actively question and challenge them both inside and outside the workplace.

4. Be Violence Free
MenEngage Alliance members are committed to the principle of non-violence, under all circumstances, and work to prevent and combat violence in all its forms, including sexual and gender-based violence, violence against women and children and male interpersonal violence. Violation of this principle of non-violence may adversely affect the efforts of MenEngage and lead to the tarnishing of the Alliance’s beliefs and principles. Thus, member organizations must hold all of their staff members accountable to a rigorous antiviolence standard. Violation of this provision may lead to the removal of the member’s affiliation with MenEngage.

5. Prioritize Ethical Standards and the Safety and Well-Being for All - including
Women and Children
MenEngage Alliance members take a “do no harm” approach to the work they do in communities around the world. For this reason, it is important to be aware of how patriarchal structures highlight men’s and boys’ vulnerabilities, and largely place women and children in situations that often cause them the most harm. Members should work on how to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all individuals impacted by their programs and projects. This includes striving to include and take into account the voices of key stakeholders including men, women, boys, girls, and transgender individuals at the community level, and the voices of local activists and organizations in program design, development and evaluation, as well as any other initiative that aims to engage the community.

Members will also follow international ethical principles and guidelines on research and program implementation such as ensuring participation is always voluntary and informed consent is given. Acquiring consent from children and those in “captive” areas (i.e. schools, prisons) require additional safeguards to ensure participation is always voluntary.

6. Avoid Conflicts of Interest
MenEngage Alliance members have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the network, in line with its mission and Core Principles. If a staff member is presented with a situation whose outcome creates personal benefit for him or herself, friends or relations, or the member organization, at the expense of the integrity of MenEngage, there may be a conflict of interest and it should be avoided. Carrying out transactions or situations that favour certain organizations or individuals over others can lead to the tarnishing of the MenEngage Alliance’s beliefs and principles.

Additionally, MenEngage Alliance members strive to work transparently and collaboratively across countries with regional and national members of the network wherever they are present.

7. Hold One Another Accountable
MenEngage Alliance members are aware that both their positive and negative actions reflect back upon their organization and the network as a whole. For this reason, while MenEngage aims to recognize the successes of its members, members must also work to hold one another accountable for actions that go against the Principles of the Alliance. Accountability can mean different things depending on the context. It may mean confronting a colleague who makes a sexist comment about women’s bodies, or holding quarterly meetings with key stakeholders such as LGBT groups to ensure that the implementation of an HIV-prevention project is carried out in a collaborative and transparent way. The most important thing to remember is that the integrity of the MenEngage Alliance is dependent upon individuals who are critically aware of their actions as well as those of others, including close friends and colleagues.

A minimum package of requirements is now available for the MenEngage Alliance on accountability that includes how to create strong workplace policies (i.e. child protection, sexual harassment, equal opportunity hiring, etc.), an accountability protocol and a training to ensure that members’ standards of accountability are in line with those of the MenEngage Alliance. These are available now on

8. Ensure Transparency at All Levels
MenEngage Alliance members will strive to be transparent, honest, fair and ethical in  all of its actions, including making public its sources of funding and annual budget  and spending, except in cases where the donor requests to remain anonymous. Transparency also means working collaboratively with local organizations in places where a MenEngage member or network exists.

Should you want to consider joining the Network as an empowered member visit this membership page.