Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is central to the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development. But while important advancements have been made particularly in women’s economic participation and education, persistent gender norms continue to limit women’s economic, social and political agency. Despite representing 48% of the worldwide labor force today, women continue to spend 2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men; one out of three women has experienced sexual or physical violence by male perpetrators. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its ensuing surge in violence against women and girls, served as a powerful reminder that much remains to be done on the way to gender equality.
At the same time, there is growing recognition that the link between promoting women’s economic empowerment and significant advancements in gender equality might not be as straightforward as assumed. Increasing women’s bargaining power within their households and communities through strengthening their economic position has the potential to lead to higher gender equality. But it can also disrupt traditional conceptualizations of gender relations and household dynamics and be met with – at times violent - resistance by men. “Men do not uniformly ‘fall in line’ and accept gender equality”. As men continue to hold power over the political, cultural, and economic resources needed to enhance women’s rights, they are likely to serve as “gatekeepers” to gender reform. Women’s empowerment initiatives must therefore be complemented with a targeted approach to engage men as allies. Men as change agents for gender equality remain a “tremendously untapped resource”.To move the needle towards gender parity, ITC has introduced a MenEngage Pilot project in 2021 as part of its mentoring programme, which created a space for male colleagues to explore the constructs that create and perpetuate a lack of gender equality in the workplace.
The pilot was based on the premise that gender equality, as an end goal, is the responsibility of everyone. It is not an issue that will be solved without active male engagement and without critical engagement with the normative social constructs that shape all gender identities and relationships. Real equality based on a redefinition of these norms and societal expectations is a win for all - and men play an active role in this change.
A group of 11 male mentees, guided by MenEngage expert Michael Kaufman, went through multiple training sessions to reflect, share, and learn on their journey to becoming male Gender Champions.
Meet some of our male champions on Instagram and see what they have to say in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women."
 World Bank: Labor Force Participation Rate, Female; URL: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.NE.ZS
 UN Women: Facts and Figures. Economic Empowerment; URL: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures
 World Bank (2019): Gender Based Violence (Violence Against Women and Girls); URL: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialdevelopment/brief/violence-against-women-and-girls
 Levtov, Ruti; Barker, Gary;Contreras, Manuel; Heilman, Brian; Verma, Ravi. (2014). Pathways to Gender-Equitable Men: Findings from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey in Eight Countries. Men and Masculinities 17(5):467-501
 Slegh, Henny, Barker, Gary, Kimonyo, Augustin, Ndolimana, Prudence & Bannerman, Matt (2013): ‘I can do women's work’: reflections on engaging men as allies in women's economic empowerment in Rwanda, Gender & Development, 21 (1): p.17
 Connell, Raewyn (2005): Change among the gatekeepers: Men, Masculinities and Gender Equality in the Global Arena; in: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30 (3), pp. 1801-1825.
 UNFPA 2014: Men, Masculinities and changing power. A discussion paper on engaging men in gender equality from Beijing 1995 to 2015: p.12, URL: https://unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/Men-Masculinities-and-Changing-Power-MenEngage-2014.pdf