A Step by Step Guide for Men to Promote Gender Equality
Engaging Men as Allies
Complete elimination of systematic gender discrimination needs the active involvement of people of all genders. Violence against women, child marriage, dowry, FGM, and systemic inequality in education, politics, economics, and science negatively impact the entire society. Sadly, the majority of women’s rights and gender equality activists worldwide are women. There are a number of reasons for this. Primarily, a lot of people think feminism is an anti-male movement. But, in reality, feminism is a movement against a system that consistently portrays women as inferior, incapable, and objectifies and oppress them. Moreover, some men consider women’s fights for equal rights as a threat to their power and privileges. It’s not easy for men to engage as allies. In fact, it could be quite challenging for men to come up as a feminist, depending on one’s social and cultural background. In this post, I’ve tried to simplify and break down the issue of gender equality for men. I’ve also outlined actionable guidelines for men to promote gender equality and women empowerment.
1. Understand the concept of Feminism and Gender Equality
Feminisms and gender equality are complex, intersectional issues. The meaning of gender equality could vary depending on one’s social, political, religious, and cultural context. Thus, the first step in participating in the gender equality and women empowerment movement is to understand the issues really well. Please try reading and understanding gender-based issues in the global as well as your local context. Do your own research on the pressing concerns over gender inequality and how it affects the growth and economic development of societies. For instance, achieving Gender Equality by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Read: Feminism and the Advocacy of Women’s Rights: Why Are these Relevant Today?
As the first step, you can explore these valuable resources, facts, programs and campaigns undertaken by the UN and its different agencies. The UN Women has a lot of very useful eLearning resources and training about gender equality and gender mainstreaming for beginners. Please find below a list of other online learning platforms and books that I would recommend for the purposes of gender education and training –
- HREA human rights education
- Institute for Development Studies – Voices for Change ‘Gender Hub’
- Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) trainings
- UN Women Training Centre eLearning Campus
- World Bank Open Learning Campus – Gender
- Deakin University Gender and Development Online Course
Men’s Guide to Feminism: 5 Books on Feminism Every Man Should Read.
Some Men: Male Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women
2. Reflect on your own life and Acknowledge your Privileges
Accepting your privileges as a man is the first critical step in becoming an ally. Look around yourself and your surroundings to figure out signs of gender-based differences and discrimination. Do you and your partner, your mother, and father, brother and sister, son and daughter enjoy the same rights, privileges, and opportunities in their everyday lives towards pursuing their career goals, education, expressing their social and political views or leading their lives the way they want?
Here is a list of self-reflection exercises on the concept of gender roles and norms.
In your culture or society-
- How boys and girls are expected to behave?
- How boys and girls are expected to express their emotions?
- What is not allowed for men and women?
- What qualities are valued in men and women?
- Are both men and women have similar rights and freedom?
- Do men and women have equal access to assets, education, and power?
Once you identify and accept the privileges you have faced as a man, it’s easier to embrace your responsibilities to support your female counterparts’ needs and rights for equality. You can now start thinking about how can you use your privileges to help and support women in different spheres of your life.
You should never forget your responsibility to ensure that our daughters, sisters, and mothers must live in a safer and equal society. Thus, please ensure that your loved ones are not victims of any harmful social practice of the patriarchal society.
Read: Gender Equality Begins At Home: A Personal Reflection
3. Challenge your Implicit and Explicit Biases
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
As you start working through your plans to work with women as allies to promote gender equality, you would be fighting against the psychological barrier of your own biases. There are many social and cultural customs that oppress women and violate their rights. They probably exist in your life for years but you have never realized that they are harmful. Challenge your own thoughts and unconscious biases using your education and awareness about gender issues. Success in eliminating gender inequality lies to a great extent in accepting the fact that it exists in each of our lives, in each and every family and household, sometimes in a rather subtle way. By now, you are expected to use a gender lens to analyze and understand your life.
4. Identify the Specific Areas you want to Bring Changes In
While working as an ally, please try to identify which areas of your life need immediate attention. You would most likely have some active or passive involvement in promoting gender discrimination. We all do. Think and reflect upon your situation and make an informed decision about where you could be most effective in bringing changes. Think about what you are willing to do to eliminate gender-based biases that are currently existing in your life or in the lives of people around you.
Read: Importance of Introducing Gender Education In Early Childhood
5. Set up a personal goal and Identify your Support System
Identify the causes which you strongly support and the issues which really bother you. Once you know that, outline a plan to achieve your goals so that you could be an effective ally. Then define your short and long-term goals. For instance, you can start with some small goals in your personal life or in your family. Furthermore, as a long-term goal, you can think of educating your community members, spreading awareness about gender issues, or being an advocate of gender equality and women empowerment.
Use the power of the internet to access and communicate with people and groups who are working in this field. HeForShe is United Nation’s Online Global Solidarity Movement for men to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible, and united force for gender equality. They help and support men to take tangible actions.
Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) is another organization working for workplace gender equality through effective partnerships with men. You can also review their resources on Action for Men.
Men, Boys, and Gender Equality is building an openly accessible basis of evidence and lessons for working with boys and men to promote gender equality.
The Interagency Gender Working Group’s Male Engagement Task Force is an information and knowledge exchange network on what it means to engage men/boys in health promotion and gender equality, why we should engage men, what are the benefits, how to do it, what works and doesn’t work, and what modalities of health services can better reach and include men.
6. Consider stepping out of your comfort zone
It may be quite uncomfortable to identify yourself as a feminist and bring changes in your own life. For instance, if you are a parent who’s always taught your daughter to behave in a certain way, but never thought of educating your son to treat women with respect, you might find it extremely awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning to talk to your son about these issues. It is very pivotal to step out of your comfort zone when are a change maker.
7. Get Going
You are now equipped to be a change-maker and an ally. Don’t waste any more time waiting for the perfect opportunities to come your way. You can start with small changes in your own life. All changes begin at home. Thus your home and family are the perfect places to start bringing changes. For example, start with sharing domestic and care work with your wife, teach your kids about breaking gender barriers, set aside money for your daughter’s higher education, or encourage your wife to be economically independent. Try to ensure the rights and equality of women in your life. You can of course volunteer for other organizations or communities or create your own campaigns to amplify your voice and make a bigger impact.
8. Prepare Yourself to face Obstacles
You would probably face a lot of barriers and backlashes from the people around you. All major social transformation changes face a lot of resistance at the beginning. You may also feel that your efforts are not taking you anywhere. Please stay strong in front of criticism, resistance, or opposition. You may need to remind yourself very often about the higher purpose you are working for. It’s also important for you to have access to other men, women, and support groups who are working for women’s rights and gender equality.
9. Be a Role Model for others
Try to Influence people around you. You can do that by sharing your story, talking about the importance for women to have equal rights, opportunity, and a safe environment. Present yourself in your family, school, workplace, or community as an advocate of gender equality. This will help you to create your own identity as a change-maker. You may not be able to change everything, but you can influence many people to think out of the box. Hope these resources and guidelines for men to promote gender equality and women empowerment was helpful to you.
You may also want to read You Too and Eliminate Gender Discrimination by Building Self Awareness aimed to encourage and support men and boys to fight for a gender-equal world.
Wonderful post! I’ve never heard of the UN goal of Gender Equality by 2030, so thank you for bringing that to my attention. I will do more research into this topic!
Thanks Kat! I am glad that you liked it. Yes, Gender Equality is one of the 17 sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, targeted to be achieved by 2030.
You brought up some excellent points. Women need to have the same rights and protections as everybody else. They deserve no less. We are all the same regardless of gender or race, so why should they be treated differently? In some cultures this problem is VERY large. It is a big problem and sadly it will take time for change to come about. Changing an older mans views on this I believe will be a very slow process, but needs to change regardless. I think we need to ultimately start by teaching our sons to look at things differently. These young boys are the future, and if we instill in them when they are young the correct way to treat females, then finally as they age, the mentality will start changing. I also believe that we all need to stand up for the rights of these young girls to get a good education. By having this education, they no longer have to be dependent on men to survive. Education for both the girls and boys will make a huge difference I think. Everybody should stand up and support this movement to make the world a better and safer place for all girls and women. Thanks for sharing this excellent article Swagata!
Thanks so much for such a generous and positive feedback, Doug. It really means a lot. I agree with you on the importance of education , and have been trying to promote the value of girls education both online and offline.
As the Human Rights must be institutionalized across the globe likewise Equal Rights for Women must be accepted by all nations for humanity so men would not be ashamed of how their mothers, sisters and daughters are treated.
Completely agree, Nader. Thanks for such a great and relevant comment.
Scott J DeNicola
I think in the US we are starting to see a bit of a shift in equality and its been a long time coming. When I was in school many many many years ago we never learned much about the inequality that was happening in the world. There seems to be more discussions around the topic now but still not enough. Some of the education has to happen at home as well. Thank you for your continued effort to bring these issues to the forefront.
Thanks for your comments Scott! I agree there is a lot more awareness now, but we still have a long way to go.
I traveled the world and was surprised at some of the cultural differences when it came to viewing women. I’m sure many men will benefit from reading this when they aren’t sure where to start.
Boss Mom Outlaw
This is so important, and I think an often overlooked step in promoting gender equality.
In The Pastel Bag by Joanna
This is an inspiring post. It encourages both women and men to reflect on their contribution to gender equality and equity. It can help men to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of their role.
Great action steps. Becoming well-informed about the issues is always a good place to start. Many of us are not as aware of global issues as we should be.
Love the, “Challenge your own thoughts’! We get so comfortable with what’s the norm that we just go with the flow. Unknowingly, we become part of the cause of inequality. I believe that men and women both have important roles to play to make equality a reality!
Most of the time we are controlled by our unconscious biases without even realizing that. It is very important to challenge our own thoughts and question our own biases before we can start our fight for equality
These are great steps to consider not just only when you are trying to make a change. It should apply to every facet of life. Thank you for sharing
This is a wonderfully written post and it points out a lot of helpful information, thank you for putting this together.
This is an awesome list of steps. As men, many of us feel like the fight against gender discrimination is a “feminist battle”, but men need to get actively involved in this as well. We need to recognize that gender discrimination exists and stop making excuses for it.
Yes, I think fighting for gender discrimination is exactly similar to fighting for any other human rights! I don’t agree that it is a feminist issue, I feel it is as issue of violation of a fundamental human rights.
Erica (The Prepping Wife)
As a white female, I can’t really say I’ve thought about this much because it isn’t as much of an issue for me. This post reminds me that just because it doesn’t affect me, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stand up for it. Which you covered in the not waiting for the perfect opportunity point. If we all waited for the perfect moment, nothing would ever happen.
Yes it is the responsibility of each of us men to contribute towards ensuring & fighting this menace of discrimination.Keep promoting awareness.Great job.
As a nurse, it’s still mind-blowing the inequality I see with certain cultures. You would think that when they migrate to the US, they would also want to escape the demeaning ways that women are suppressed and treated in their home countries. When I learned that female circumcision is still practiced by some of the Somalis here, I was sick to my stomach. The idea that this is still happening and not a means for criminal punishment is horrible. We are getting better, but not as fast as we might like.
Even by 2030 I do not see India heading towards gender equality. I would have presumed that the young educated 70% majority of the population would bring about changes in their behavior and thinking about women and tradition. However, even though a woman goes out to work and shoulders equal responsibilities in running the household, the same cannot be said about men. Major education is required to teach mothers to teach their boys to respect women.