Participants from across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region learn how to change gender perceptions through engaging men.
Many countries in our region are characterized by patriarchal societies where gender stereotypes are obstinate and many men define their identities by their ability to control women. These negative visions of masculinity often lead to gender-based violence, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care for women, and to the absence of fathers in caregiving for their children. One of UNFPA’s missions is to develop programmes in our region that help change the norms on masculinity that hinder gender equality.
Last week in Zagreb, UNFPA EECARO and Promundo joined forces to organize training for 30 NGO partners from countries in the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia. In addition to these participants, UNFPA gender focal points from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also attended the workshop on engaging men to promote gender equality in the region. The meeting was also supported by the OAK Foundation, Care International Balkans and Men for Gender Equality Sweden, who lead the MenCare campaign in Europe.
The aim of the training was to educate participants about the MenCare campaign and about gender-transformative approaches in fatherhood and gender equality. Participants also were invited to share their work with others and discuss accomplishments, difficulties and success stories. The purpose of the training was to help participants develop action plans and implement gender transformative programmes and campaigns when they return home.
Promundo presented trends on masculinity in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia and two specific IMAGEs (International Men And Gender Equality Studies) on Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Participants were invited to define men’s roles in families and identify gender stereotypes in their own countries. Programmes were presented on how to work with men, boys and women on changing their attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS and fatherhood. Clips were shown that present new images of men’s roles as fathers.
Interesting new initiatives were introduced: the Young Men’s Initiative in Croatia that successfully works with young peer educators in schools in Croatia. Also, in many African countries but also in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, Father Schools are set up, where groups of up to 10 young ‘expecting’ fathers are taught how to become involved in caregiving.
The training showed examples of campaigns and advocacy initiatives that were successful, but also some that failed and examined the reasons why. Participants were invited to analyse their own initiatives with gender-transformative programming and identify necessary changes, partnerships and technical assistance needed to develop good action plans.
The mix of participants with a long tradition in setting up gender-transformative programmes, and people just starting to work on these techniques, the presence of NGOs, researchers, foundations and international institution such as UNFPA, made this training a very fruitful exchange of information and experience.
All participants said that the training has given them new insights and tools to engage men and boys on gender equality. UNFPA EECARO and representatives of our country offices who participated in the training will now apply this newly acquired knowledge in our work during the coming years.