Ladies and Gentle Men: Engaging Men and Boys in Women's Development

Adolescents | Mar, 2015

Rigid gender norms and stereotypes reinforced over generations in a largely patriarchal society remain the root cause of discrimination against women in India. Social expectations of how men and boys should be and act directly affect behavior related to gender-based violence, HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health. Dasra’s report, Ladies and Gentle Men: Boys and Men in India Need a New Meaning for Masculine, explores the issue of engaging men and boys in women’s development in India.

Gender inequalities in India manifest themselves across development indicators: India has a skewed sex ratio of 933 females per 1,000 males; 41% of women aged 15-49 have never been to school compared to 18% of men; 87% of men aged 15-49 are likely to be employed as opposed to 43% of women in the same age group. Global evidence suggests that engaging men and boys in women’s development is highly effective. Since men still largely control resources and social discourse, it is critical to acknowledge them as gatekeepers of gender norms and potential resistors of change in order to drive systemic changes in women’s development.

Ladies and Gentle Men outlines how families, especially parents of young boys, have a critical role to play in inculcating gender-sensitive values from a very young age. Schools and colleges should also leverage their platforms to engage men and boys given their conducive learning environment and potential to integrate messages into curricula. The media also has substantial potential to tackle the root causes of gender discrimination, question existing gender stereotypes and lay groundwork to redefine gender norms. 

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