Global, women-led movements like #NiUnaMas and #MeToo helped define the decade as one in which we will no longer accept gender injustices, and cultures of silence and complicity on harassment, control, and violence – predominantly against women and girls, and especially affecting the most marginalised groups such as women of color and trans communities.
There is now growing consensus in policy spaces that the root causes of injustices related to gender are based on harmful and restrictive gendered norms – including how ideas around masculinity shape the expectations, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of boys and men.
Despite this, the turn of the decade has seen communities around the world divided on issues of basic human rights, threatened by the rise of right-wing populist nationalisms, and facing an anti-women’s, anti-feminist, and anti-LGBTQI backlash. Manifestations of masculinity that continue to value dominance, aggression and the subordination of others have risen to the highest offices, and shocked the world with their misogyny, xenophobia, and racism. We must redouble our efforts in the years ahead to confront these profound challenges, and make the 2020s the decade in which patriarchal structures are transformed for the realization of gender equality and human rights for all.
It will also be a decisive decade for the planet. We must recognize the climate emergency is a result of age-old patriarchal systems, and will disproportionately impact women, girls and the most marginalized groups. Female climate activists are facing a misogynistic backlash from some men who feel threatened by the issue. We need to challenge these hateful messages and nurture ways of being men that are caring for both people and the planet.
We can only do this by working together.
The vision we must unite behind owes itself to the rich heritage of intersectional feminism, women of colour, decolonization efforts, and LGBTQI movements. It is a vision that recognizes and addresses individual, institutional, and structural power imbalances - and seeks to transform them. We seek to add value to these transformative efforts by engaging with those groups whose gender bestows on them more relative power and privilege; cis-gendered boys and men. We understand that with this power – regardless of whether it is recognized or desired by those who have it – comes responsibility.
As an alliance engaging with men and boys for gender equality, the responsibility is greater still. We must work in close collaboration and partnership with feminist movements, and remain accountable – in word and deed – to broader feminist goals. This work is a life-long commitment to serving a collective vision. It means working in solidarity with marginalized communities and supporting young people to shape the future of societies around the world. It means checking one’s position in both personal and professional life and remembering that the phrase, “the personal is political”, is as relevant now as it was in the 1960s.
As leaders within MenEngage Alliance, we aspire to model accountability, and always be mindful of our primary role as serving the Alliance and our vision of a gender-just world, and supporting the rights of all women, girls, and people of diverse gender identities. This mindset will be crucial throughout 2020 as we support an Alliance-wide mobilization of dialogue and grassroots agenda-setting in the run-up to our 3rd Global Symposium in Kigali, Rwanda, in November 2020. It will be equally important in contributing to accountable, feminist-informed advocacy efforts around Beijing+25. The next 12 months will also see the continuation and culmination of a consultation to revisit and update our underlying values, principles and standards: the agreements to which we all hold each other accountable as a collective.
Throughout all these efforts, and as we look to set a renewed political agenda for the future, we hope we can create spaces and communities that challenge traditional power structures and hierarchies, and serve the organization through a commitment to our principles of accountability, inclusion and justice.
We look forward to working with members, partners and friends for a gender transformative future in 2020 and beyond.
Bafana Khumalo, Joni van de Sand, and Humberto Carolo