Back to resources

The Missing Half – How to Bring Men to the Gender Conversation?

Young Men & Boys | May 15, 2020

Devyani Srinivasan, an independent researcher assisting Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies, spoke on a panel about the work that the philanthropy is supporting during #Charcha2020 organised by The/Nudge Foundation. This panel was anchored by Dalberg Advisors. Other speakers included Ravi Verma, Director of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) Asia; Sujata Khandekar, Executive Director of CORO India; Gary Barker, Founder and CEO of Promundo; and Harish Sadani, Co-founder and Chief Functionary of Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA).

 

Transcript

00:03 Swetha: Hi, folks. For those of you who are just joining in, we’re just about to start a really exciting discussion on how do we get better at engaging men in the conversation and on gender. I want to introduce you all to my colleague, Dayoung Lee, who is going to be the moderator for this panel. She’s my colleague at Dalberg and she leads a lot of our gender work alongside me. She was your MC for the gender track yesterday, if you were on yesterday’s session and she’s currently exploring how to engage men and boys in Bihar on family planning and nutrition. She’s extremely passionate about the topic. So, Dayoung, thank you and off to you.

00:37 Dayoung Lee: Thanks so much, Swetha. I wanted to kick this off with a short story. A couple of years ago, I was doing some research in Chhattisgarh with my Dalberg team and our mandate was actually to design an app for providing maternal and child health information to rural women. We were doing all these prototyping sessions, largely with pregnant women and young mothers. And I just remember one of the first things we heard very loud and clear from these women was, “Why are you only talking to us? Can you make this thing useful for our husbands also because we want them to know this information, as well?”

01:17 DL: And that was such an “A-ha!” moment for me, an incredibly humbling experience. We really had not planned to engage men in these discussions much, assuming that this information will be most useful for the women and that the return on investment was going to be higher if we targeted women for this type of information. But recent research has really shown that this kind of “low hanging fruit” mentality has really led the development community to only exacerbate centuries-old gender norms in patriarchy such as women’s role as caregivers and men’s role as bread winners.

01:53 DL: So, in that research, we went back and, of course, talked to a lot of different men and also came up with ways to engage them better. But largely, efforts to improve belies the women and girls around the world and in India. Promoting gender equality has been about providing more resources and opportunities to women and girls about building their confidence, helping them stand up and advocate for themselves. But if men are such a big part of the problem, why aren’t they more a part of the solution?

02:24 DL: And so, in this session, we’re going to be exploring the missing half. How do we bring in men and boys into the gender conversation? And we’re going to start the conversation by exploring really the why, why is this all worth it? But hoping to really dig in with our experts here, on the how. How do we really engage men and boys and how not to, especially in this new COVID world, as things have really turned upside down. And I’m so excited to have this discussion with our five panelists here today who are really some of the leading voices in this space, and I’m just going to be apologetic right here and tell you that I’m not going to do justice to the introduction ’cause I have limited time, but here I go.

03:09 DL: We have Deyvani Srinivasan, a researcher at Nilekani Philanthropies, which is really one of the leading funders in the gender space in India, that have been advocating for bringing men and boys to the center of promoting gender equality.

03:25 DL: We have Gary Barker joining from Promundo. He’s the founder and CEO. Promundo has worked across more than 40 countries over decades to engage men and boys in advancing gender equality and promoting positive masculinity.

03:41 DL: We also have with us, Harish Sadani, who is the co-founder of MAVA, Men Against Violence and Abuse, which is one of India’s first men-based organizations on preventing violence against women.

03:56 DL: We’re really excited to have also Ravi Verma, who is the South Asia Regional Director at ICRW where he has done a significant amount of work to understand violence from gender and masculinity perspectives and they’ve designed some of the most effective interventions involving school and sports-based programs.

04:16 DL: Last but not least, we also have Sujata Khandekar joining from CORO. She’s the founder and executive director. CORO supports leaders in the most marginalized communities and help them create social change in their own communities. And as part of this work, CORO has been working tirelessly and extensively to engage men and boys to promote gender equality and empower women and girls as well.

04:43 DL: So, we’re going to start this discussion in the first half an hour and so, with myself moderating but then, we would love to turn it over to some audience Q&A, towards the end. So, please use the Q&A button at the bottom of your Zoom panel to send across any questions you may have for our panelists throughout the discussion and we’ll be sure to get to some of those. Before we begin, I actually wanted to run a very quick poll with the audience to better understand who all is in the Zoom Room today but also perhaps, just as importantly, who are not? So, the tech team, can we pull up the audience poll, please?

05:35 DL: We have three questions for you. Pretty simple. Number one, which gender do you identify with? Number two, on a scale of pain to gain, what has been your experience in engaging men and boys in the gender conversation? And number three, what is your professional background?

06:13 DL: Alright. Hope you all had a chance to answer that question. Can we show our panelists the results, please? Are they still trickling in. Okay. Sorry. I’m hearing that they’re still trickling in from our nearly 200 audience who’s on this line. Let’s give it another 10, 20 seconds.

07:10 DL: Okay, here we go. I hope you can all see the poll results. So, of the nearly 200 people in this room, we have 85% who identify as female, 13% as male, 1% as gender variant/gender nonconforming. On the question of pain versus gain, the predominant answer was moderate pain. Analyst please note. [chuckle] Followed by neutral and high pain. So only about 20% thought there was more to gain actually. And about half of us are from the NGO sector and a third of us are from the research and consulting world. We have very few from the policymaker and donor community.

08:03 DL: And so this has actually not been the worst gender imbalance from one of these sessions. I don’t know what my panelists think, but I’ve definitely been in rooms where it was just entirely women talking to one another. But I think this just underscores the heart of the problem here, right? When we talk about gender equality, where it is so important to involve men the discussion. Why are men absent and what can we do about it to flip this dynamic. It is really at the core of our discussion today, and we’re keen to explore also the role of COVID in all of this.

08:45 DL: And so I wanted to actually start with the question for each of the panelists to ask each of you, as our audience said, there’s a lot of pain, perhaps unclear gains, when we’re trying to engage men and boys. Can you describe for us the moment when you or your organization decided that you needed to actually engage men and boys in promoting gender equality? Why did you decide that engaging men was more gain than pain? And I’ll just actually start with Harish who is going to be at the left hand of the panel and then just go through the rest. Go for it, Harish.

09:25 Harish Sadani: Yeah. Hi. So I had several factors in my growing up years, my own paternal aunts, who actually put a fine imprint on me, on my character. At a younger age, when I was doing household chores and I was labeled as sissy or girlish, I remember I never used to take those stones personally, but rather reflect that why am I called like a girl? Is the role of girl undervalued? So at a very young age, I was closely observing how women were treated at homes, violence within homes because I was staying in a community-dwelling where I could see neighbors lives with close proximity. Then, as I was growing up, I was writing letters to a film star who is now no more, Smita Patil. I used to exchange writing letters where I used to write to her how I used to view her films from a gender lens. And what were the gaps which I felt? The gap which included absence of men in this one movement of addressing violence.

10:45 HS: And as I was doing my Masters in Social Work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, I used to realize that when I was volunteering with the women’s crew and observing how they were responding to counselling and other factors, I realized that men were completely out of the conversation, even post-violence, before violence or any kind of discrimination on women. So I felt that was a big gap. And the history is that there was a journalist who had given at the same time an appeal in a newspaper calling for men and 205 men wrote. This was in 1991. And I was the one who had responded among those 205 and I took the mantle and that’s how this organization Men Against Violence and Abuse was born. So it’s a combination of different factors, which enabled me to take the lead.

11:46 DL: Thanks Harish for sharing your personal story. Gary, we’d love to hear from you.

11:55 Gary Barker: I’m from the US, originally. I moved to Brazil in the early ’90s to coordinate a study with UNICEF on girls who were being sexually exploited. And working with government social workers and some nights, we went out with police, we were interviewing girls in the situation, and I kept asking the question, “Why aren’t we talking to the men at the bar?” We can go every night with police and arrest the men, and there’s more the next night. There’s men who are paying for sex and there’s men who aren’t paying for sex but are sitting next to their buddies watching them knowing that they’re paying for sex with underage girls. And I remember how tough it was with my colleagues to say, “I think we’re sitting at the wrong side of the table here. If we actually want to stop this flow, we don’t have enough prison space to keep arresting these men. We’ve gotta look at what is it that’s driving, what is it that allows them to do this and why are so many of their buddies watching it, but not saying anything?”

12:57 GB: So I think, as you’ve described, your “A-ha!” moment. And the other thing is that, as a native English-speaker learning other languages, it’s fantastic to watch how learning another language helps you deconstruct your own. And I guess listening to the gendered language that we talk about empowering women, I kept thinking how in Brazilian Portuguese the expression of violence against women and sexual exploitation of girls sounded like it was missing words. And I realized in English, it does as well because violence against women is men’s violence against women. The sexual exploitation of girls is men’s sexual exploitation of girls in large part. We forget that there’s an object or a subject in that sentence and that allows us to think that somehow or… And the same applies to everything in gender. The unpaid care burden on women is not because Venusians or Martians have abandoned women to do the care work. It is men not doing our share.

13:53 GB: So I think for us, I founded by instigating that conversation with some amazing Brazilian colleagues, we founded Promundo a few years later with the fairly simple idea that gender equality needs men and men need gender equality, and I think that last part, we often forget. So that’s been an inspiration for us as well to say men need to be part of this, not as a favor, not as champions, not as after thoughts, we’re in it whether we’re resisting it, whether we’re silent on the side or whether we’re for it, but there’s no way to ignore that the world gets better for all of us and Promundo’s name mean is basically a contraction of for the world in Portuguese with the notion to try to get beyond the notion that gender quality is done to men, kicking and screaming, and instead, to say, “We need men part of the equation, you have no choice, it’ll get better if you want to be part of it, but there’s no choice but to engage men in the process.”

14:53 DL: Thanks Gary, and we will be exploring what is it in for men? So I want to definitely put a pin on that idea that men need to do this for themselves as well and we want to now hear from Sujatha, over to you.

15:06 Sujata Khandekar: The strategy of working with men precisely from the very feminist perspective with which we were working on violence against women in low-income communities of Mumbai. And we were doing everything that was to be done around violence against women, like counseling, training, creating, awareness, legal aid, etcetera etcetera. But then there was, we realized that there was something missing in that whole thing. The work that we were doing was like fetching water in the sea, like you keep doing that unendingly, untiringly but then there was no reduction in the violence as such.

15:48 SK: There were few realizations while our…and we were completely focused on women when they’re dealing with domestic violence and even violence in the public domain. So there were few realization in the process that it was not enough to work with women alone, because quite often we found that the violence of women got increased when they started speaking for themselves as a backlash, because men felt threatened. The woman who was not talking, who was not demanding or asking anything, if she breaks her silence and says she’s getting violated, then the backlash, in terms of backlash the violence was increased.

16:30 SK: So there was something missing in that, how do we combat this backlash? That was one thing. And also, the realization was it is not enough to work only with the patterns and instances of violence because there were so many cases, every day, we used to get flooded with the cases of violence against women. So we learnt, we realized that it is important to work with not the patterns and instances, but to work with the mental models that are creating, perpetuating, endorsing, justifying violence. And in that and in that ambit actually, we can see how do we change social norms? How to we challenge and change social norms that perpetuate and endorse and justify violence against women? So the role of men becomes very crucial because they have to be brought in communication. They are, yes; they’re part of problem, but they’re also part of solution. So they must be brought on the table as partners and not merely as perpetrators. That was realization which happened during the process and that’s how we arrived at the strategy to work with men as an organization.

17:43 DL: Great, thanks Sujatha. Up the turn over now to Devyani, are there in your personal experience or for as a pillar of strategy for Nilekani Philanthropies, when did you realize that you needed to engage men?

18:00 Deyvani Srinivasan: Yeah, so I think for Nilekani Philanthropies, our work with our portfolio of organizations that engage young men and boys on gender equality is really driven by Rohini’s belief that programs that work on women’s empowerment are never really going to achieve their full potential unless we also work with men, so that’s kind of part one. But I think part two is very much that those programs also need to address men’s fears and men’s needs, right? For them to really be sustainable. And so, that’s kind of the philosophy with which we kind of decide to which organizations are going to be part of the portfolio.

18:45 DS: I think we’re learning from the organizations all the time, so even within our portfolio, there are, I would say about three different approaches in terms of how the organizations are thinking about benefits to men and I’m happy to talk about that later as we go into the discussion. I think for me, personally, obviously, with Me Too and with the Nirbhaya case, we’ve had a lot of moments where we’ve really brought attention to kind of violence and inequality against women, but what’s kind of bothered me is that those incidents have also been quite polarizing, right?

19:22 DS: And I think unless we start to see men as part of the solution and not only part of the problem, we are actually going to see increasing violence and polarization in society.

19:38 DL: Thanks Devyani, we are going to be coming back to the three approaches but for now we’ll turn it over to Ravi.

19:46 Ravi Verma: Well, thank you, I think ICRW was one of the first premier research, women’s research organization that recognized while working on the issues of domestic violence, the significance of working with men. 2001, 2002, ICRW did a major national survey in India, which really threw up some very interesting results and that shook the foundation of the idea of gender itself, because a lot of women were also justifying violence that was happening within the households. And that study did show that how men condone violence and even women become party to the larger patriarchal structure that seems to go beyond men and women.

20:40 RV: So it became very obvious to us that we need to think, not in vanities of men and women, when engaging men in this whole discourse, but we need reframe the discourse on gender [20:54] ____ men and women and all other gender variants onto a continuum of spectrum and to begin to question where does all this come from? And I think that was a time, 2001, ’02, when within the HIV sector, men were being, I’m using the word deliberately, men were being used as instrumental, from a very instrumental lens to reduce the infection and reduce the HIV infection rate. And that is the time we began to bring in the whole idea of gender transformation in the discourse on women’s empowerment and men’s engagement. I think…

21:39 RV: So we come from that perspective, that the whole, the entire discourse and discussions around engaging men has to have an element of questioning the construct of gender. It doesn’t have to be equated only with women and it has to have the idea of how do we address the structures and institutions and larger norms that seems sustained, a particular gender relations and regime which impacts both women and men and others in a particular order. And this should really work at many different levels to enable questioning that kind of a structural… Those structural parameters that make men, women and everyone to fall in line with that kind of expectations.

22:35 RV: And it has been a personal journey also. Doing this has never been an easy task because people… Nobody wants to give up powers, nobody wants to be questioned beyond a comfortable level. So talking about gender means raising the levels of discomfort and that discomfort is not only for others, but for me as well as a man, and as a person who is living in families and with peers, with other friends and in an institutional setting where you have to constantly prove yourself that you are truly engaged in a discussion which impacts you as well. So it is a journey for me, this whole issue of working on gender and both personal and collective in terms of understanding what it means to engaging men, engaging myself into this discussion and all my other colleagues. Thank you.

23:34 DL: Thanks Ravi. Yeah, really sounds like for all of our panelists, it’s been learning in a journey and you’re all such believers in the importance of doing this work, but clearly, our audience thought there was a lot of pain in the difficulty of doing exactly what Ravi you just mentioned, right? Getting people to give up power in some sense. And so I wanted to ask you guys, what are the biggest challenges or areas of pushback or perhaps unintended consequences, some of those difficulties, the pains that come with engaging men and boys. And I wanted to start with this from on-ground perspective, from mobilizing communities in India, so perhaps we can start with Sujatha and then I’ll have Harish.

24:25 SK: Yeah. Actually see engaging men… Engaging is a difficult task. Difficult in the sense that it’s a process. It’s not a quick fix thing. The solution is not quick fix. So you have to engage with patience, process and participation for a longer time. That itself becomes an impediment, like how do you engage men, because they have different priorities, especially if you see young men. Actually, their priorities are different kind of. Their distractions are different. So holding them together for a long time until… Because the change doesn’t happen, there may not be transformation, but even the commencement of change wouldn’t happen so easily because we have to unlearn everything that we have learned in our upbringing. And this is both true for men and women as Ravi was saying. Even women endorse some kind of masculinities and femininities, so the problem becomes even more complex in that sense.

25:31 SK: So keeping people together in the process was always a challenge when we were working in bits and pieces kind of. Because we did a research on masculinities, cross-section of masculinities. And as a follow up to that we started working with almost 1500 young men in the community. But we couldn’t sustain because beyond their anxieties and the curiosities around sexuality… Actually, they had also different needs like education, employment, livelihood, etcetera, which we couldn’t cater to at that point of time. And which we are now trying to actually correct it in the process after this learning. So those have been kind of challenges to feed them together. To even giving away your power, kind of thing. All the privileges that you enjoy because of just being a man, kind of. So letting that go, because that takes a lot of negotiation and unless you are ready, closely interacting with people for a longer time, this change doesn’t happen.

26:41 DL: Yeah. And what about you, Harish especially in your work with men communities?

26:50 HS: Yeah. So I have been working largely with young men and adolescent boys for a longer period, more than a decade. Like 13 years ago, I started an initiative with some 33 men and later on it got up-scaled in 10 other districts of my state and now I’m trying to replicate in other regions of India. So with the young men, say, who are in their 20s and 30s, you find that working with them, you need a lot of perseverance. You need ways in which you can make conversations with them, interesting conversations where there is a safe space where they can open up, that they will not be judged or labeled, there they can talk about their vulnerabilities and anxieties equally.

27:52 HS: And I think that is the crux part, that when you see the one side of the man wearing on his head a crown which is full of thorns on one side that he is powerful, and the other side, when you see the vulnerable side and you give a space for men to open up and talk freely, conversations which up till now have been taboo. When you talk about man-woman relationships, you need to talk about sexuality. So in today’s time, I think raising a boy is all the more difficult and challenging than it was some 15 years ago. The age of adolescence or puberty is declining, as young as 11-year-old boy comes of age and you find that even in case of girls, if she gets information about menstruation from another woman, from her family or any close person, and even though some feminists might contest that there is no dialogue.

29:04 HS: But the key part is at least there is some conversation, which nobody can contest. At least there is some conversation. But when it comes to boys, a growing up boy, nobody talks to him about what happens to the body, what happens to the physical changes, psychological changes as he grows up. To whom does he ask about erections, issues related to erections and the like? So, I find that if you give space where… And it’s not a surprise that 95% of young men, growing up men, have one of the primary sources of information on sexuality as pornography. So whether they admit it or not. And even if they are from well to do schools and even if schools in part, there are enough examples where teachers of biology try to skip the chapter on human reproduction and ask the students to learn it by themselves.

30:07 HS: So you find that as the age of puberty is lessening and there are lots of simmering things, boys, as they’re growing up, they are in suffocating molds. Nobody talks to them. They have something simmering. Their testosterone levels as they are younger is at the higher level and at that moment, if they are not guided and if they resort to any kind of violence or offensive behavior, it is easier to label them that they are criminals. But you are never giving them an alternative. You’re never giving… You never responded to the unmet needs of countless of young growing up boys in our country.

30:53 HS: So I think there are a lot of gaps. And when you try to… Even if, for example, I when I address, when I’m mentoring a group of young men within a classroom or within a particular space, I know that the moment after my interaction is over, they are back to the world where patriarchy is very much there. So you’re not like a… And another vexing problem in today’s time is that there are multiple inequalities working simultaneously so which wasn’t the situation 20, 30 years as much as it is now.

31:34 HS: So you have in India now we are talking about COVID virus but there are two viruses apart from COVID which we all have to deal. So one is the communal virus and other is this patriarchal virus. So I think… So these viruses have been existing for many years and if they are being reinforced by institutions like religion, for example, which in Hinduism, for example, if it is 5,000 years old, so that means 5,000 years old beliefs about how men should be controlling women, if they have been professed and if they have been reinforced over the years. So it’s not going to die easily. So even if you engage with one target group, there will be constant tussles of the man that you’re engaging. He should be able to fight the machismo. He should be able to fight with the man within him, and simultaneously use reasoning to guide him where he wants to go. So I think it’s a big… There are several hiccups. And one challenge, I’m taking a little time, even in today’s time, one of the things I…

33:00 DL: It looks like we lost Harish at a critical moment, but just in the interest of time, I heard a lot of the challenges. Right? It is a long-term game. It’s not a quick fix. It takes a lot of perseverance, even if you work with the men and boys in a contained environment. There are so many societal forces throughout the life and the community and so forth that are really outside of your control, the social norms, the patriarchal norms that have been going for centuries really. And so, I wanted to now shift gears a little bit to talk about solutions. Devyani, you mentioned that you’ve seen three different approaches that have worked well in combating some of these challenges. So I wanted to turn it over to you to talk a little bit about what you’ve seen from the Nilekani Philanthropies perspective in this space.

34:01 DS: Good, yeah. So I think what we’ve seen a kind of three different approaches to thinking about benefits for men. Because I think that’s one of the key questions here is what would boys and men consider benefits for themselves from engaging in this work? Right? And so, while it might be too early to say this is successful or this is not, I’m happy to kind of share what we’ve seen. So one is the approach that looks at trying to get boys and men to be active in kind of activism in a way on gender equality and gender awareness, right? So for them to take active roles in spreading the message, in generating awareness. And kind of the theory of change behind that approach is that men and boys gain sort of skills that are transferable, so they gain communication skills, they gain critical thinking, problem solving, but in the process are also sensitized to gender issues and kind of move towards gender equality. So that’s really the first approach.

35:05 DS: The second approach kind of takes the perspective that gender norms and gender identities are damaging for men as well as women. I don’t know about equally, but they are kind of damaging or at least restricting for boys and men, and the ability to kind of challenge those norms, embrace other identities, other masculine identities, is really the benefit for men and boys from engaging in these approaches. Right?

35:34 DS: The third approach, which is the approach of some of the organizations that are new to our portfolio, but is quite interesting, is kind of the intersectional approach, which is not saying that men and boys are equally let’s say restricted by social norms and gender identities as women, but men in different context. Right? So men of lower castes, or men of… We see this a lot with boys, right? So boys may exert power over girls of their age, but very frequently, there are also in situations where they may have an abusive parent or there may be older boys bullying them, right? So the third approach is kind of using intersectionality to really, I think, build empathy among boys and men to kind of help them relate to situations where they’ve been sort of dominated or oppressed or violated, and to link that to women’s experience.

36:36 DL: Yeah, thanks Devyani. Wanted to pick up on the first point you made, which is the importance of articulating the benefit for men and boys and it’s a really nice argument that really there’s no zero sum game. There are no losers. Potentially men are going to gain as much of if not more than women in this journey. Circling back to Ravi’s point around giving up power though. Is it always a win-win situation? When is it not? And if it’s not, how do we articulate or create those benefits for men and boys? I wanted to turn it over to Ravi I know you like these sticky questions, so I wanted to challenge you with this one.

37:34 RV: Oh, I thought you were asking Devyani the same follow-up question, but this was for me, right?

37:40 DL: To put you on the spot. [chuckle]

37:43 RV: No, this is good. Because I think we have learned over the long years of working with men and boys in different age groups, in different communities, a couple of things that we have learned, and some of the things that Devyani said I endorse completely, because those are the larger framework, theory of change. But I definitely want to emphasize that if we want to engage men and boys and address this whole issue of raising the ability to question power and entitlement, then it has to begin very early in life. So we have one of the approaches that we clearly advocate for and work passionately within ICRW and partners is to engage at a very young age from 10, 11, 12 to 14, 16, and that’s that particular spectrum of age itself provides a long journey for these boys and girls to go through a process where they begin to question and then they shrink back, and they again come out. And so it’s a kind of oscillating situation that we see in that age.

38:54 RV: But then that’s the age when they are able to question, and they ask questions innocently, and many of them take… When I’m using the word innocently means they have… There are no baggages at that time, and they’re building those baggages, and I think that is the time when we need to… To make sure that we saturate the interventions at that age, so start early. Two, we definitely think that these interventions need to be situated within the institutions because a lot of what boys and girls begin to grow, to learn and imbibe or internalize are… And others alluded to these points indirectly but I’m making it explicit is that those ideas are sustained, nurtured, by the institutions within which they study, where they play, or where they go to interact with their peers. So there are many institutions within which the boys are made out made to believe in certain ways of enjoying entitlement or making that as their safe space.

40:10 RV: So I think if you want to penetrate into the idea of men’s and boy’s safe spaces where they preserve those ideas of being masculine and proving themselves and aggressiveness, then we need to work within those structured institutional spaces where you find these places to get in, this is the second really important. I think this is a very, this needs to be needs to be worked out in operational details, but conceptually, we need to be very clear that we are going to address those safe spaces, whether it is offline, online in terms of the internet users, or is it different circles, sports, groups, other kinds of things within the institutional framework.

40:52 RV: And third piece that we think and our colleagues and I we have been working relentlessly is to find ways to bring some kind of a convergence because I think if you have ecological kind of understanding of these issues which is not possible for every intervention to really reach, but there has to be some way to connect these institutional programs with community based programs. And that means there has to be some kind of change, I don’t want to use the word change agents, but someone who would anchor these change process on a sustained basis. So within schools, for example, and the institutions, we really think that we need to work with teachers or the mentors in some ways that they remain there and they continue to engage in these difficult conversations for time to come.

41:47 RV: It’s not a project-specific piece of work that they’re doing, but it is some kind of transformation that they themselves are going through. They have to change the pedagogy. They need to change the learning and teaching styles in a way which will be engaging and inclusive and participatory and be ready to face difficult questions from the children without being perturbed or without being dismantled about their self image as a teacher who is very powerful.

42:17 RV: So if we work with these kinds of three principles. It is, I think, is something that would perhaps sow the seed of raising and challenging some of those difficult issues that men take for granted. That boys take for granted, that they don’t even, they don’t even see that is happening around them. So I think and this experiment, I tell you was so interesting. In one of the sports program where we invented these teachable moments. So wherever the boys and men engage into a conversation, which is sexist, and they just do it by way of normalized process, there has to be someone who immediately points it out. It’s a bystander, or teachable moments kind of interventions are so powerful because they really put people on the spot like you put me on the spot. That’s what is important for men to take a step back, and then reflect and then see what they do next.

43:24 DL: Thanks Ravi. Yeah, so I think both from Devyani and Ravi we got a lot of suggestions from engaging boys as early as possible to providing institutional sustained, nurtured support to creating teachable moments, using intersectionality to really build empathy on some of the moments that boys and men are also more vulnerable and I wanted to quickly turn it over to Gary before we move on to audience Q&A, to see if he has anything else to add from Window from your beginnings at Brazil but really has been expanding its work globally, and you’ve worked in over 40 different countries. Are there any tips and tricks that you might want to share?

44:08 GB: I think I’ll pick up on some of the points that Ravi brought up and it’s a pleasure to be on the panel with Ravi and Harish and Sujata we’ve… I’ve had a chance to learn together and learn from over many years so thrilled to get to exchange again, I think one of the approaches that we’ve been doing increasingly is to and I’m picking up on some of Ravi’s metaphors around. I think for many, for much of our work is trying to almost as if men are fish in a fish bowl, who don’t perceive the water around them. If you ask a fish, “How’s the water?” a fish is likely to say, “What water?” it is, we’re so enmeshed in these norms. They’re so normal to us that what our group education tries to do is to get men to be aware of that, most of us come out of popular education approaches that are to try to bring awareness of how gender inequality, patriarchy other power dynamics work. That only goes so far. We can only get so many fish at a time.

45:07 GB: And it becomes the big question of what happens when men step out of those groups and they go back to their relationship, to home, to workplace, to the world that says, “We’re fine with this unequal status quo.” So I think increasingly we’re going from, yes, that kind of awareness raising [45:24] ____ type consciousness raising education works, but it’s very slow and often unsustainable. If we really want to achieve the change that we’re after for this, we’ve got to think about changing the systems.

45:38 GB: And so I think it’s about… We’ve spent a lot of time measuring norms and looking at men’s norms about gender quality. We’re looking increasingly to say, “Let’s change the whole structure around them.” So what does that look like? We worked with Brazil’s Ministry of Health, to create a men’s prenatal health protocol. So it’s not that we work in group education to convince men they should be part of a prenatal visit in supporting the child to come, but to say, “Let’s change the system.” When he comes in, assuming he’s not using violence, assuming the female partner wants him there, she is the center of the attention.

46:11 GB: But we shifted to say, “Let’s make that system inviting to him.” There’s a chair for him to sit during the consultation, and someone comes during the consultation and says, “We’ve got Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, at this time next week for you to come back for your appointment because you need your own session to talk about family planning, to do STI tests and all the rest,” making the system, create a space for him that says, “We expect nothing less than you’re part of this.” And we use that as Ravi said a teachable moment.

46:42 GB: Conditional cash transfers or micro-credit programs around the world focused on women. We continue to send a message that we don’t think men are really very responsible at the household level, we consider them… By the design of those programs we consider them antagonistic to the goals of it. What if we flipped it around? We’re doing that in the case of Colombia, working with their National Cash Transfer program to say, “We create expectations that men are part of the process,” not shifting the control of the funds to her but saying, “We add either a small conditionally or a small piece of the program that says ‘We want you men here to support your female partner to enter the paid workforce or to do part of the care work.’”

47:26 GB: Or build it into schools, as Ravi was talking about, build it into workplaces rather than thinking, one man at a time. And the other part, I think we need to say is we can’t do this work as if, “Let’s get men over here on their own.” Sometimes it’s quite useful, sometimes that’s a great starting point, but it’s gotta be in relational perspective with women. Men need to be… We need to be held accountable by women. We need to be in debate and discussion whether in the workplace or school or the health sector where there’s a back-and-forth questioning as the change processes happen. So I think the other is to not get stuck in that this is men-only stuff. This is toward the cause of gender quality. It needs to be done in that relational perspective.

48:08 GB: And the other point I’ll bring up is that it’s often easy to say, “Well, look, no men want to participate here. There’s no low-hanging fruit when it comes to engaging men here.” I think everywhere we’ve looked, even some of the most conservative settings, if we’re able to create that safe space there is at least a third of men, a quarter of men, sometimes half of men who are already on our side, but we’ve not been brave enough or creative enough to find the ways to engage them. To change the rules and say, “We know that you can be called into this.” And so part of this is to accept that deep discomfort that we have to say. “Yes, we need you part of this, but this is not just you being a champion who comes in and says, ‘Oh I’m going to be the good guy and I’ll fix things”

48:54 GB: This is really messy stuff but you have to be brave enough and we’re going to make the space where you must be part of this conversation and you can’t walk away from it. So I think what we’re… In some to say, “How do we go from those individual processes, that we do find gains for men?” But we make a world that says, “There’s no choice. Gender equality is an end that we don’t give you a choice to being part of. You’ll find some gain, you’ll find some pain but we don’t give you a choice. We as the humanity have said, “We need this and like anything that we believe is good for public health is required for justice we’re not giving you a choice.” And I think it’s that systemic approach that we’ve gotta be brave enough to think that big that I would urge us to move toward.

49:44 DL: Thanks Gary. Just building on that point of taking a systemic approach, and really building change into the world that men and boys live in, part of change the fish bowl. COVID has clearly thrown this world upside down in so many ways, right? And in this conference throughout we’ve talked a lot about the different risks that it creates, but also using this crisis as a moment of opportunity. So I just wanted to throw out an open question to anybody who wants to take this to ask what potentially entry points to have COVID also created in better engaging men and boys? Sujata do you have a response? We can’t hear you. Can someone unmute…

50:36 SK: Okay, so yeah, I think two things that the COVID pandemic has thrown out in terms of human dynamics, one is the vulnerabilities of all people have become so evident. And there is a feeling that we are all sailing in the same boat kind of thing. So that… I’m saying this because generally we feel that men feel very powerful and that’s how… Is the basis of violence etcetera. But then when we did some interviews with men in this COVID pandemic, actually men also broke down on the phone.

51:16 SK: The first reaction, the response was, “You are the first to ask me how I’m feeling, or how I am.” And then the baggage of being a bread winner has literally shattered because these people have lost their livelihoods. There are so many uncertainties, they don’t know whether they’ll get any payment or any money there, so actually they have become so vulnerable. So actually that position, I thought was, that could be a starting point for starting different kind of conversations, when vulnerability of everybody is evident.

51:51 SK: And second there is also some kind of realization of mutuality and [51:57] ____. Sometimes in selfish way, but sometimes, yes, for example, I care for your safety, because I care for my safety. That kind of interdependence of mutuality, that feeling also we see. So I was thinking if we could actually use this as leverages to start completely different kind of communication with men and women also, because they both endows each other’s structural notions etcetera. So actually, I thought this was a leverage for this. And one… Actually, I also thought that there is a gist that this pandemic has also created, because the pandemic has drawn a very powerful line, overarching line which is of scare, which is of uncertainty and everything else build up under that line might seem trivial and non-significant.

53:00 SK: So that could be the case, that could happen with gender based violence also. I mean, the pandemic challenge is so huge, that why are you talking about trivial things like gender based violence. So I see that also the gist that whatever we have gained over a period of time through different efforts as women’s moment also, may got lost in this kind of environment where these faces of expression, both for men and woman are shrinking. Yeah, thanks.

53:30 DL: Thanks Sujata. Just in the interest of time, I did want to get some audience Q&A in, so a question from the audience, “Role models are obviously very, very important. Who are really role models fighting for men… Against men’s patriarchy in India?” Perhaps a question for Harish.

53:55 HS: So there is really a dearth of role models for men. When I say role model, in the sense, not as a professional but as a person, a man of substance. You have had examples apart from India, sport persons who cry and express their feelings and they take up a stand. A person like Roger Federer says, after he has won or whether he’s lost, when to him, he says in one of the last interviews I had seen that, what his two daughters and wife think about how he is playing, that matters to him more important than anyone else.

54:43 HS: So I think all… Expressions, so I find that there’s a dearth of people, whether it is in sports or cultural field, there’s a dearth of men who would say it, they would politically correct. There are enough number of men who would say that violence against women should stop because a woman is somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, but because she is a human being, that you should stand up. There’s hardly any man who’s talking, from these fields. So I find there’s a… There are lot of people who are politically correct and there are campaigns but there is a [55:25] ____ role models, but the role models will actually come from lay people.

55:31 HS: So the work which I’m doing with young men, there are young men who are deconstructing masculinity at the first, doing the learning and unlearning, and they are in the process re-defining and masculinity and creating alternate models for themselves, for their peers. So it’s the lay person who are doing it. I find a large number of examples around. I think that’s the process. And so we were talking, I think Gary was talking about systemic chain. So one of the sub-systems of our society is media. So why not work with media and use media?

56:13 HS: So I’m… For the last three years, I’m running something called a Traveling Film Fest. A film fest which reaches to people and specially young men, and they deliberate, they talk watching over films and that’s a safe space which otherwise they wouldn’t get even in their schools or colleges. So I find it as a… We have to use that medium, and through that when people are questioning and sharing their personal anecdotes, they talk about it and in a way, they are redefining masculinity.

56:52 DL: Thanks Harish. I think that was a really powerful note to end the session on. They may not be these big headline role models that the entire nation looks up to, right? But it’s so important to find role models within the local communities and leverage the power of media, both national but also local media, through these Film Fests and whatever that may be, to provide those role models of a different way of being men and boys in today’s world. So thanks for sharing those thoughts. Just in the interest of time, I know this is a discussion that we can continue to have for many, many more hours, but wanted to bring this to a close and really thank all of our panelists who joined us today.

57:41 DL: Thank you so much Gary, Devyani, Ravi, Sujata and Harish for sharing all your thoughts and hopefully the audience started this conversation by thinking that it’s going to be a lot more pain than gain, but through all of your advice on how to really engage men and boys through the various institutions, the community level, making it part of their system and making it easier for them to engage and a holistic solution involving also policy but media all together, hopefully provided lots of advice for our community members here, joining us today, for how to actually minimize those pains, but also maximize gains in engaging men and boys in this important conversation. So thanks everyone.

 

More like this

Young Men & Boys

Masculinity and India's Young Men | Rohini Nilekani's Address at OTV's Prerana 2019

This is an edited version of Rohini Nilekani’s talk on Masculinity and India’s Young Men at OTV’s Prerana 2019. With 230 million men below the age of 18 in India, Rohini talks about how we need to start doing the work of questioning our understanding of masculinity and providing safe spaces for boys and men […]
Mar 2, 2019 | Speech

Young Men & Boys

Gender Equity: Working with Young Men and Boys | We The Women, Bangalore

This is an edited version of Rohini Nilekani’s conversation with Raghu Karnad at We the Women in Bangalore. She talks about why we must engage men as stakeholders and co-beneficiaries in gender equity.   Over the past 20 years of my philanthropic work, we’ve seen a fair amount of advancement with regards to women’s empowerment. […]
Oct 7, 2018 | Panel Discussions

Young Men & Boys

महिलाओं के साथ पुरुषों को भी सशक्त करना होगा

समाज… क्या हम रचनात्मक रूप से युवा पुरुषों के सशक्तीकरण की चुनौती का भी सामना कर सकते हैं? मशहूर टीवी सीरियल की तरह हम लड़कियों को यह उम्मीद देने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं कि ‘मैं कुछ भी कर सकती हूं।’ इसके परिणाम भी सकारात्मक आ रहे हैं। आज ज्यादातर लड़कियां स्कूल जाती हैं। उन्हें […]
Mar 30, 2019 | Article

Young Men & Boys

The Plight of the Young Indian Man | The Bridge Talks

Addressing the peripheral status of men and boys in discussions on ‘gender’, Rohini Nilekani challenges us to be inclusive in our efforts towards ‘gender’ empowerment.   Transcript 00:03 Rohini Nilekani: Namaste everyone. Thank you Anant. Thanks to Caravan. Thanks to The Bridge for inviting me here. I was resisting Anant quite strongly actually because I […]
Oct 27, 2016 | Panel Discussions