Initiatives that engage men need to recognise and understand participants’ expectations from the outset in order to understand their motivations. Entry points for men joining a group can be diverse.
In Kenya and Sierra Leone men were engaged as gatekeepers, decision-makers, fathers, brothers and sons in programmes and through community mobilisation in order to build empathy for women. In Uganda it was about providing a physical and social space for men as survivors of violence for healing from trauma. Acknowledging that change is a personal and emotional process, enabling self-reflection and mutual learning on issues of gender norms, privileges and socialisation is important.
In Egypt, the presence of men as founders, leaders and members of youth-led informal initiatives such as Shoft Taharosh, Bassma and Opantish has changed the face of gender activism in the country. One effective approach to challenge dominant perspectives of masculinities and change the image of what it is to be a man has been to encourage men to think about and understand SGBV from their own perspectives. Men were encouraged to think about and engage with SGBV by using notions of humanity and fairness, building a new and shared narrative to address the issue based on societal concern, as opposed to a women’s issue.
Yet still, when initiating spaces of engagement, questions of legitimacy of who is creating the space, who is included or excluded, and how decisions are being made need to be considered.