Thursday, 17 December 2009

Where are the Men?

In a recent workshop on gender-sensitive monitoring, I found myself with some 18 women and one man - the latter being there, as he admitted, because the group was the only one to work in a language he understood. Most participants were well informed of and experienced in gender mainstreaming. Many felt there was a continued necessity to maintain gender mainstreaming as a separate item on the agenda, lest it would be dropped altogether. But we would have preferred to be a more "mixed" group - not quarantined in the women's ward, a sad déjà vu for those among us who have been "doing gender" for decades. Maybe we should have formed sub-groups and swarmed out to infect parallel, non-gender focused working groups with the gender bacillus?

What is it that keeps men from talking (and walking) gender? Often, gender-sensitive work is not sufficiently rewarded; gender-insensitive work not sufficiently sanctioned. Where gender policies come with significant "carrots" and "sticks", you will find men working on gender. I know highly visible and successful initiatives on masculinity, e.g. the FEMNET Men to Men programme in Kenya, and I know highly committed, respected and well-earning male gender specialists. More and more mainstream NGOs build gender sensitivity into their staff appraisal systems and enforce policies that deny funding to gender-insensitive programmes. I have also noticed that organisations which actively promote diversity in its broad sense, including sexual orientation, are more open to challenging gender stereotypes and offer a more propitious climate for men promoting gender-sensitive ways of working. Where men are allies and partners in promoting gender mainstreaming, half of the job is done.

Here's a resolution for 2010: find ways of winning over men!

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