Engaging men to promote gender equity

Improving women’s empowerment in a systemic way requires meaningfully engaging men in gender equity strategies.
During the Greater Opportunities for Rural Women (GROW) project in Ghana, MEDA realized it needed to engage men beyond their role as gatekeepers, turning them into allies in gender awareness raising. It also needed to ensure that men did not feel left behind by development efforts.

MEDA’s male gender activist (MGA) initiative engaged 17 male champions trained in gender equity issues. These gender champions, who live in communities served by MEDA’s project partners, engage other men, educate men in gender sensitization, advocate for women’s rights, smooth relations with male family members, and speak out against gender inequality.
Male control and ownership hinder women’s ability to become economic actors and limit the roles that they can play. Women’s critical role in agriculture remains invisible, since women dominate in food crop production as opposed to cash crops, which are more visible in the public sphere.Clients of MEDA's Myanmar project consult with a male gender championClients of MEDA's Myanmar project consult with a male gender champion
 Male activists volunteer five to six hours a month on average, hosting dialogues one-on-one or in larger groups. They host gender awareness sharing events, in one-on-one conversations or community forums, targeting men in the GROW community.  MGAs highlight and stand up against gender inequality and advocate in support of involving women in productive activities, sharing how women can contribute to decision-making and income. Additionally, they encourage men to support their wives by taking on household tasks such as childcare, cooking or cleaning.
Some activists faced resistance from community men about gender sensitization messages.
Another challenge was balancing the appropriate amount of engagement of men as stakeholders, while also ensuring that women maintain control of project benefits and serve in leadership roles in gender equality efforts. In one case, men were less likely to participate in meetings if the male gender activist was not in attendance. MEDA has taken lessons learned from these challenges and managing the roles of the GROW male gender activists into the design of MEDA’s project in Myanmar, which also is engaging men in gender equity. In Myanmar, these men are called male gender champions. ◆
From a report by Sara Seavey, senior program manager, gender, of MEDA’s Washington D.C. office

Global Affairs Canada funds MEDA’S GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project in Ghana and the IMOW (Improving Market Opportunities for Women) project in Myanmar.