Partnership & Accountability blog series

Partnership & Accountability blog series

Accountability to the women´s and to social justice movements is crucial for building collaborative and equitable partnerships. Accountability requires the development of a receptive capacity in men and others who have been placed in positions of power and privilege, so that they can listen to the perspectives and needs of oppressed groups in order to become authentic allies. Accountability and partnership building also require us to engage in respectful dialogues, and a willingness to constantly address issues and concerns raised by our partners.

We hope that this blog series contributes to these ongoing conversations and serves as another platform to share useful information.

Blog posts are written by member and partners of MenEngage, for whom we provide a platform for dialogue. The opinions expressed in the posts do not necessarily represent those of the MenEngage Alliance.

To learn more about MenEngage & Accountability go to

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Men and boys: allies or shareholders in the women’s rights movement? Finding the nexus

I am a Women Deliver Young Leader, recipient of a prestigious fellowship that provides young people working to advance women and girls’ health in their communities across the world an opportunity to learn and share experiences. Within that opportunity is a particularly valuable chance to discuss strategies about movement building.

Various groups, including women’s rights movements and social justice movements, have begun to challenge global patriarchal power structures in an important way. This over time has borne fruit and with it a clarity about the multi-dimensional ways in which power structures present themselves. Most critical to note are the intersectionalities and multiple layers of discrimination some populations -- especially women and girls in their diversity -- have to deal with.

Central to the women’s rights struggles is the issue of how men and boys can support the women’s rights movement, either as allies or distant supporters. One of my fellow Women Deliver Young leaders from Brazil brought the Facebook message below to our attention. This got us thinking and ignited a discourse around men and boys that brought forth very exciting revelations.

As a feminist it is very exciting to constantly engage with issues and define my journey. I acknowledge that I may not fully understand all the issues at all times. Opportunities for  true reflection, movement building and cohesive collective action are presented in spaces that allow for healing and strategic thinking around framing and mobilization with other sisters.

Men and boys who are well-intentioned and set out to support women’s movements may not fully understand how sacred these spaces are for those engaging with them,  so I will take a stab at explaining. The spaces provide safe havens for women -- trans, migrant, women living with disability and those facing various forms of discrimination -- to heal and reflect. The healing comes from critiquing the system that advances these forms of oppression and strategizing how to engage effectively to bring about change.

To effectively support women and girls’ rights and movements working for them, men and boys have to be fully aware of the power dynamics that are brought forth by their engagement. Their advantage in terms of power and privilege is something they should be acutely aware of. Men and boys have been part of socialization that normalizes violence against women in various forms and advances misogynistic culture. Without acute awareness and self-reflection, reproducing these values even in the most subtle ways may jeopardize gains made by and for women and girls. The framing of issues is best understood by those who have been violated by the system, so to be part of the movement would also mean a deliberate effort to enable women and girls to define issues as they are affected by them, as well as whatever strategies and interventions that challenge the status quo.

Unquestioned aggression also means that men and boys may take up spaces --- either sub consciously or not -- and stand in the way of women and girls taking leadership on issues that have been at the forefront of multi-layered discrimination.

The question of engaging men and boys is complex and should be treated as such. While it offers a real and meaningful opportunity to get more allies to support the struggle for women and girls’ rights, it is as well a platform to confront gender relations in a realistic manner.

To all the men and boys who work towards gender equality, we appreciate your support as allies. The movement can only get stronger when all needed hands are on deck.

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