New look at masculinities

Symbolic image from Nigeria. Photo Jonathan Liechti.

Addressing notions of "man" and "woman" early can help break stereotypes and bring about change. Photo Jonathan Liechti

What role do men play on the path to greater gender equality? In 2023, several new projects focus on (stereotypical) images of masculinity and involve men more actively than before in gender work.

Mission 21 and its partners have been working for decades to combat violence against women and to promote gender justice. This commitment takes many forms: Our partner organizations support women in cases of sexualized violence. They contest prevention campaigns, advocate education for girls, and promote women in leadership positions. Often, the aim is to strengthen the role of women in society and to give expression to women's concerns at the social and political level.

Show alternatives to violence
In order to achieve gender justice and combat violence against women, it is essential to support those affected and to address constricting, often pejorative notions of what it means to be a woman. But that is not all. It is just as important to examine ideas of masculinity that can lead to violent behavior, for example, and to work toward changing them. Moreover, men are also affected by sexualized violence. "Men and images of men play a key role on the path to greater gender justice and less gender-based violence," says Barbara Heer, head of the Women and Gender Unit at Mission 21. "We need to involve men and boys more in our work in this area. It's important to show that their freedom is also limited by narrow ideas of how gender should be."

"Boys and men play a key role in the issue of gender equity."

Dr. Barbara Heer, Head of the Women and Gender Unit, Mission 21

Barbara Heer, Head of the Women and Gender Unit

Workshops in Cameroon Presbytarian Church: One of six projects
Men are important agents of change, as they can use their privileges for gender justice. To achieve this, Mission 21 is funding several projects this year with a focus on "Masculinities." In Cameroon, for example, the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon is planning workshops on gender justice with 52 leaders.

This year, a total of six projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America are focusing on the topic of "masculinities. In all of them, the aim is to reflect on the role of men in order to come closer to true gender justice and, among other things, to counter gender-based violence. Men who recognize entrenched role models can break away from such roles and patterns - and become a role model for others.

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