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HARARE, Zimbabwe – A tool developed by UNFPA and Promundo-US is a useful resource to scale up engagement of men and boys to  promote Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and gender equality within the region. This was the unanimous conclusion  at a meeting that brought together UNFPA Country Office staff from the ESA region, plus regional and international gender experts  from government and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The tool provides broad parameters and information for supporting CSOs undertaking advocacy, with government counterparts, on the involvement of men and boys.

The workshop, convened by UNFPA, formed part of a strategic effort to scale up or institutionalize the engagement of men and boys by ensuring programmes and policies are supported and funded by government.

Looking to the future

Phumzile Dlamini, UNFPA Swaziland Gender Programme Analyst. Photo: UNFPA / Victoria Walshe

UNFPA has long been an advocate for involving men and boys in its work to promote SRHR and gender equality.

“The institutionalization of this work is embedded in UNFPA’s Strategic Plan, which talks about working with CSOs to engage  governments to institutionalize the work with men and boys,” said Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA Gender and Youth Specialist (Global). “That’s where this initiative to conduct mapping and the tool came into being.” Evaluations and studies on UNFPA’s work showed that the work with men and boys thus far is small scale and pilot-based and not sustainable, she said.

“We wanted to look at how we can foster cooperation between government and civil society to address the issue of sustainability, so that governments as duty bearers take up the responsibility by integrating this work with men and boys into their larger gender policies and strategies,” she said.

A useful tool

Phumzile Dlamini, UNFPA Swaziland Programme Analyst, Gender said the tool has good resources on initial engagements, particularly with governments on engaging men and boys, which is very critical.

“In most of our countries CSOs have been quite far ahead in terms of the concept and discourse of involving men and boys, so a tool to engage with our government counterparts can only be resourceful. The tool is not prescriptive yet; it gives you ideas that you can adopt at the country level,” she said.

It is commendable that efforts to engage men and boys are being scaled up, she said. “When the world realised that women and girls were left behind, we all targeted that group. But inadvertently we left behind sharing the same messages with males – their brothers, husbands, father and uncles – which is just as important.”

Marcel Chisi, National Chairperson for Men for Gender Equality Now, a CSO working on gender mainstreaming in Malawi, said the issue of partnership between government and CSOs is key for engagement with men and boys. “This tool will ensure that there is a greater understanding of the role of men in working for gender equality and not being perpetrators of violence,” said Mr. Chisi. “For governments and women’s movements to accept that men who are joining this movement are doing so because they need to make a
contribution, there needs to be an interface and this is what this tool is trying to address.”

Key to engaging men and boys

Constantino Ernesto Intipa Junior from Men for Change Network, a CSO working on prevention of gender-based violence and ending child marriages in Mozambique, said men and boys are part of the solution as much as they are part of the problem, and the tool would be very useful in ensuring men are taken on board. “In Mozambique, in engaging men and boys we are creating a basis for peace building. We had a civil war and we suffered a lot; we believe that peace building starts from home so it’s important for us to teach children how to interact with each other. Engaging men and boys will be a way to do that.”

The Zimbabwean team discusses the tool during the breakaway session. Photo: UNFPA / Victoria Walshe

Institutionalization of engaging men and boys


Clotilda Sawasawa, Director of Community Development within Malawi’s Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare said that the workshop highlighted key areas in which government and CSOs can collaborate. “The engagement of men and boys in Malawi has been taking place mainly through CSOs. Through discussions at this workshop we have identified gaps in our work and learnt from other countries how to improve our collaboration.”

Kelvin Hazagwi from Padare, a CSO that works to create platforms for engagement of men and boys to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls in all spheres, said the tool would be useful in Zimbabwe: “Zimbabwe has progressively enacted legislations  that drive gender equality and promote the rights of women in different sectors of the economy. These legislations have resulted in many policy directives, from health to economic empowerment. The missing link has been how to engage men and boys,” he said.

Validating the tool

Men Engage Communications Manager Tim Harwood speaks to the regional group. Photo: UNFPA / Victoria Walshe

Jane Kato-Wallace, Senior Programme Officer with Promundo, said the meeting helped raise concrete recommendations to improve the tool. “Through the MenEngage network we’ll be disseminating the tool among the different member organizations,” she said.

MenEngage Global Communications Manager Tim Harwood said the workshop was an important platform to get key stakeholders together to deliberate on a way forward. “This is a great opportunity to begin to lay down a country-specific road map together, and the tool facilities that.”

Building strategic alliances

UNFPA ESARO Regional Gender Advisor Seynabou Tall. Photo: UNFPA / Victoria Walshe

To scale-up uptake of the manual, UNFPA will work with MenEngage, a network and alliance of CSOs around the world that works to engage men and boys in gender equality. The Africa regional network comprises 17 countries.

“MenEngage supports this kind of upscaling and institutionalization of engaging men and boys,” said Global Coordinator & Advocacy Manager, Joni van de Sand.

The workshop pulled together different pieces of the puzzle, said Seynabou Tall, Regional Gender Adviser for UNFPA ESARO: “Working with government was missing within our work of engaging men and boys. We were focusing on CSOs and other UN agencies but at the  end of the day, governments are the ones that are accountable; they are the ones defining the strategies. They are the gate keepers.”

As working with men and boys is an output in the UNFPA Strategic Plan, the agency would continue funding and supporting this area of work, and would look at possible partnerships with other UN agencies at the regional level, such as UN Women and UNAIDS, she said.

By Bertha Shoko and Victoria Walshe