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International Women's Day 2015

Let's empower women by empowering men

Maria Correia's picture
Sunday, March 8 marked International Women's Day, a celebration of women worldwide that dates back to 1977 when the UN General Assembly challenged its members to declare a day for women's rights and world peace. The 2015 theme is: 'Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!' 
WEvolve: Breaking Through Societal Norms that Lead to Gender-based Violence
Gender-based violence is a critical problem around the world with numerous negative consequences. With a global partnership, WEvolve believes young people – both men and women – can ‘evolve’ and take on new behaviors and healthy relationships that reduce the risk of gender violence and invests in activities to make this dream a reality. Join us.


We must continue to empower women. Women continue to face disadvantages in almost all spheres. But if we want a gender equitable society, empowering women is not enough.

We must also 'Empower Men'

We must also empower men. Of course, not in the conventional sense by giving men more power over women. Rather, by empowering men to challenge prevailing norms and change their behaviors. This is logical even though it has not been the prevailing approach. Gender is a "system" and both women and men are integral parts of this system. If we want to see meaningful change, both men and women are implicated. It is not enough to enlighten and empower women and expect men to follow.

This is not an easy thing. Men are critically judged and assessed - by themselves, by their peers, by their elders and by most women themselves - based on the dominant ideals of manhood. And across many societies, this still means exercising control over women, being tough, being strong. It also means achieving something, as terms such as "man-up" suggest, and many men, including low-income men struggle with this societal expectation. If men can't achieve and don't conform to these societal expectations, they are often socially sanctioned, belittled or ridiculed.

Challenging norms and behaviors is thus a collective challenge for men. It is also a challenge for women, who consciously or unconsciously often perpetuate these same social norms in the way they raise their sons or interact with men.

Make Available Resource for Men

Most gender initiatives continue to focus on women. This is understandable. But as we argue, we need interventions targeting and supporting men for change.

The largest and most extensive resource available for men is MenEngage, a global alliance made up of dozens of country networks spread across many regions of the world, hundreds of non-governmental organizations, and UN partners, that provides a collective voice to engage men and boys on gender issues. There are also other smaller more localized interventions, with the most innovative programming coming from the fields of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and family planning, parenting, and domestic violence.

But we need to do much more.

Central to this premise of engaging and empowering men for change is understanding and unbundling this homogenous term called 'men'. In the case of gender-based violence for example, we identified five groups of men, each with different needs and potential roles:

Men who are victims of violence: need to break their silence and seek help
Men who use violence: need to seek help
Men who are silence spectators: need to speak out
Men who speak out: need to become agents of change
Men who are agents of change: need to continue to speak out and mobilize others

In coming up with a typology, we see how acute the needs are in supporting men. For example, how many hotlines are out there to support the men that need help? There is much work to do.

Empower Women by Empowering Men

As we just celebrated International Women's Day, let us continue to recognize women for all the advances and contributions they have made. But let us also 'empower women by empowering men' and recognize that we need new approaches and huge efforts to achieve this objective.

For more information how to get involved in the WEvolve campaign visit the website http://www.wevolveglobal.org.

Also join the conversation on social media.

Follow Maria Correia on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WEvolveGlobal

Originally published on Huffington Post Impact

​To find solutions for rural women, ask the right questions

Victoria Stanley's picture

Today is International Women’s Day--though personally I think women deserve to be celebrated more than one day a year!

My colleagues and I who work at the Bank on enabling equity in agriculture celebrate women every day and recognize their contributions to their families, communities and countries.  We wanted to use this global celebration to update you on some of the things we’ve learned from our work to make women’s lives better.

Women have a big need for reliable and timely access to technical and market information: We believe that information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential to completely change rural women’s lives, especially women farmers who often have less access to information compared to male farmers. Our recently completed study , which looked at practical ways to integrate ICTs into agriculture projects in Zambia and Kenya, found that rural and agricultural women have a lot to gain from access to ICTs. However we know that the use of ICTs to help women farmers depends on a number of factors, such as literacy, infrastructure and cost. Among the things we learned: ICT can enhance and expand the impact of  programs for rural women; it is essential to listen and learn through focus groups and other research approaches to understand women’s specific information needs that can be met by ICT; and women often learn better from other women. This study is the first step in a growing program to understand how we can best support women farmers with ICT.

Can we find a real and viable solution for women who need banking services?

Malcolm Ehrenpreis's picture

Since the beginning of time, women have been at a disadvantage when looking for financial loans. One reason is that women have less control over land and assets that can be used as traditional collateral. This puts a real damper on her ability to launch an enterprise or, even when she manages to launch one successfully, to take it to the next level.

In Africa, women’s entrepreneurial knack is self-evident to anyone who sets foot on the continent—just look at any roadside! So, this problem is likely quite costly and holding back development. Can we solve it somehow?

A Arne Hoels it happens, the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, an entity that spun off from Harvard’s Center for International Development in 2010, has developed a tool using something called “psychometric testing”, which measures personal characteristics such as knowledge, skills, education, abilities, attitudes and personality traits as a means to predict how likely it is a person will pay back a loan. And it is proving quite effective. Could this be a way to finally help find a solution for women who don’t have any credit history or hold formal title to assets that are traditionally accepted as collateral?

The World Bank Group’s Global Practice for Finance and Markets (GFMDR) started thinking seriously about this, and worked to see it if it could be integrated in a Bank-funded project in Ethiopia (the Women Entrepreneurship Development Project, US$50m). Francesco Strobbe leads the project team, and started to discuss the issue with us in the World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Innovation Lab (GIL). “I thought this was a great opportunity to test some innovative measures to see if we could reach a real breakthrough with much potential for women entrepreneurs—in Ethiopia and elsewhere.”

Defying Stereotypes, Chandigarh’s Women Bus Conductors Make Their Mark

Sangeeta Kumari's picture

If you thought Indian women would shy away from working in that traditionally male preserve - the formidable public transport system - think again. Young women in Chandigarh are daring to turn stereotypes on their head by signing up in large numbers to work as bus conductors! And that too on regular public buses, not just on female-only ‘ladies specials’.
 

Photo Credit: Ishita Chauhan