Engaging Men and Boys: A Brief Summary of UNFPA Experience and Lessons Learned

Posted by Kimberley Meijers on July 17, 2020 at 3:09 pm



Engaging Men and Boys: A Brief Summary of UNFPA Experience and Lessons Learned

In 2013, UNFPA published this resource about their experience with and lessons learnt from engaging men and boys into core areas of the UNFPA mandate at country, regional and global levels.

A large and growing body of research has shown how gender inequality undermines health and development. Research has also demonstrated how working with men and boys as well as women and girls to promote gender equality contributes to achieving health and development outcomes (Barker and others, 2010). UNFPA organizational directives have built upon this evidence and provide a strong logical and institutional rationale for working with men and boys to promote gender equality as well as sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights.
Gender equality and human rights are core values in UNFPA and are reflected throughout its work. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, linked the rights of men and women to the gender-related values and norms that determine people’s well-being. Despite many advances made in the area of women’s empowerment, the translation of a human rights-based approach into development programmes is challenging: there is a tendency to accept gender inequality as a given rather than attempt to address it incrementally through programmes. The mainstreaming of a gender lens into other areas of the ICPD mandate, including SRH, especially for adolescents and youth, and population and development programmes continues to be challenging. Working towards gender equality – by empowering women and engaging men – is fundamental to achieving a host of development outcomes, including reducing poverty, improving health and addressing other population concerns. Men’s and boys’ relationships with women and girls can support – or impede – improved health and development outcomes. Involving men in improving SRH and in caring for children can benefit men, women and children. In times of crisis, it is even more imperative to engage men and boys in protecting their families and communities from gender-based violence (GBV) and ensuring access to basic necessities. Many members of society participate in reinforcing harmful social norms; hence, shifting those norms requires the full participation of everyone, male and female, old and young. UNFPA has been unequivocal in its  commitment to addressing gender inequality in its programmes and, over time, its global, regional and country teams have agreed on the need to involve men and boys in every aspect of UNFPA work.
Indeed, UNFPA has built up a substantial legacy of programmes, activities and partnerships and has shared these experiences in ways benefiting many around the world. UNFPA has been dedicated to working in an integrated fashion, emphasizing a human rights-based approach, highlighting the need for cultural sensitivity and maintaining a consistent focus on gender equality. This provides UNFPA with a strong mandate for ensuring that men and boys are systematically taken into account in its development and humanitarian work. Yet a review of global, regional and country programmes indicates that planning, implementing and integrating work with men and boys within UNFPA programme areas could be conducted in a more systematic way. This report on engaging men and boys in the Fund’s core mandate areas is designed to help illustrate the possibilities for integrating this work into the UNFPA agenda at global, regional and country levels.

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You can read the full report here.


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