ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reflections on Inclusion of Men in Women's Rights Programmes

There is growing consensus that the "crisis of masculinity" needs to be addressed and the focus of interventions on issues of gender and sexuality has to broaden beyond women to include men and other genders.

Interventions aimed at gender justice have traditionally been centred on women and girls. With the emergence of the Gender and Development paradigm over the last two decades, an increasing number of international commitments have been made to engage men and boys in gender equality, including at the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), the Programme of Action of the World Summit on Social Development (1995) and its review (2000), the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (2004, 2009), and the UNAIDS Operational Plan for Action Framework (2009), amongst others (Peacock and Barker 2012). Simultaneously, the focus of some non-governmental development interventions has broadened beyond women, to also include men and other genders.

Many organisations and activists working towards social change and gender justice have increasingly acknowledged, in principle if not always in practice, that women-only approaches can be limited in their effectiveness. This is because gains from women-only programmes may be less sustainable, as men remain the holders and brokers of power in communities. Additionally, we have witnessed in recent years significant changes in the lives of men, such as greater material vulnerability and lesser social security under neo-liberal development regimes, leading to a crisis of masculinity.1 It is said that this crisis needs to be addressed lest it generates more conflict with women. In fact, a lot of the crisis has to do with women. The direct and indirect challenges to the dominance of men within the household, market and public life are coming increasingly from women, and from activism and action on women’s rights.

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