CSW 57: Building partnerships between men and women for gender equality

CSW 57: Building partnerships between men and women for gender equality

Date: March 7, 2013
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New York, 8 March 2013: Although there are few men taking up leading roles in fighting for gender equality, male feminists and gender activists are much easier to find these days. There have been a number of events at CSW that highlight the importance of men and boys in the struggle against women’s oppression and ending gender based violence. Although the attendance of men is far from adequate, it seems there is a growing realisation that despite men being the problem, they men can and should be a part of the solution.

A parallel event on women and men collaborating to end violence against women, encourages both genders to engage as allies and partners in eliminating gender-based violence. This message presented by a gender-balanced panel suggests that there is a shift in thinking amongst both men but also women.

It is not only commendable that men are slowing forming part of these circles, but that women openly welcome men as allies. At previous CSW sessions, women were being openly harassed by catcalls and accused of being baby killers by men picketing outside the United Nations Headquarters. It is understandable that women would view men’s participation with suspicion because of the treatment of women by other men.

It is an obvious and growing consensus that women alone will not achieve gender equality and sexual autonomy without conscious and committed involvement of men. Owing to the patriarchal structures entrenched in almost all societies; men define the trajectories of many women’s lives through physical, emotional and economic violence.

Furthermore, men control and direct the flow of resources as they hold the political, economic, cultural and social power within society. Heads of state, ministers, clergy, lawyers and judges, managers, husbands and fathers, men still hold most hold the majority of power.

“We work together towards eliminating violence against women and girls, collaborating to bring about systemic change and an end to violence,” explained panelist Father Thomas Pallithanam of the Salesian Don Bosco Catholic Order.

This fight is not an easy one. It takes bravery, commitment and will power, especially because the level of intimidation is high. In addition, law enforcement, investigations of violence against women as well as justice systems are ineffective and seldom bring perpetrators to book.

Father Pallithanam lives in India. He said that the levels of violence against women and girls are so high that in 1998 India’s National Crime Records estimated that the growth rate of crimes against women would be higher than the population growth rate by 2010.

Sister Jacintho Lobo of the Salesian Sisters says that although patriarchy is so entrenched across all societies, “dealing with men who are heads of institutions, has been fruitful.” She adds that it is an extremely challenging task but modest steps are being made to tackle the scourge of violence.

Gilberto Macuacua of the Mozambican Men’s Network for Change (Rede HOPEM) says it is easier for men to listen to other men even if they hold a different view. What is important is that it enables a free flowing discussion between men. His experience of working with men in Mozambique has shown that men fear the unknown and what may emerge when women gain more power.

He further explains that once this discussion is enabled, the partnership between women and men is crucial towards creating societies, which offer a better environment for women, “It’s should not be men or women working alone to end GBV. We have to work together because it’s such partnerships which have the likelihood of having the greatest impact,” he says.

Rather than working alone, it is important to foster strong bonds between men and women not unlike the mixed panel working towards the achievements of gender equality and equity, without forgetting the peculiar condition of women.

Bayano Valy is the editor of Gender Links’ Lusophone Opinion and Commnetary Service.
This article is part of GL’s special coverage of CSW 57.



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