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BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW

WELCOME to “Understanding Masculinities – Engaging Men and Boys towards Gender Equality: An Online Training”.

Sixty-eight years and four months since the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948), equality remains a (distant) vision for many, if not all of us.

Through decades of international conventions and agreements, and world conferences focusing on various themes that will promote and advance the agenda of equality, we remain faced today with serious issues of discrimination, abuse and violence on a daily basis across the world, including in South Asia. Foremost among them are issues of sexual and gender-based violence, and issues relating to the exercise of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

For many decades until now, equality has been debated and nuanced. In particular, gender equality has been focused upon both in terms of human rights and development approaches. Women’s world conferences from Mexico (1975) to Copenhagen (1980) to Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995) have highlighted various issues faced by women based on gender across the globe. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo (1994) and the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights (1993) have strengthened the thrust for women’s rights-human rights.

Supported by as many ‘programme of action’ or ‘platform for action’ from various conferences – prominent among them are the ICPD Programme of Action (POA, 1994) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA, 1995), mobilizations and a range of interventions (research, training, solidarity-building, policy and law reform, etc) on the ground across contexts have been undertaken parallel to international-level campaigns and advocacy to promote women’s rights towards the achievement of gender equality.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989) have been adopted, categorically defining the rights of women and children, respectively. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG, 2000) provided countries with concrete goals and targets including gender equality to facilitate progress until 2015. Currently, post-2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2015) with a set of 17 goals including gender equality (and 169 targets) guide a more comprehensive and sustainable development agenda “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all”.

The United Nations (UN) have yet to come up with specific safeguards for the rights of persons of other sexual orientations and gender identities. Although, there has been some initiatives in this regard since 2011 when, in response to a “historic” resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC, June 17, 2011), it came out with a report (December, 2011) mapping discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientations and gender identities.  Vide a second resolution (September, 2014), this report was updated in June, 2015 highlighting good practices in dealing with violence and discrimination against persons of other sexual orientations and gender identities through the application of existing international human rights law and standards. In 2016, the UNHRC through a milestone resolution, appointed the first-ever Independent Expert mandated to look into issues against people of other sexual orientations and gender identities, and interface with governments to ensure that their rights are protected.

Undoubtedly, massive work has been undertaken in challenging the many dimensions of gender inequality including well-entrenched practices in the name of culture and tradition. Inroads have been made to address gender issues, albeit very slowly over the long period of time given their very nature. Today, we are confronted by persistent as well as emerging issues. And, more clearly than ever before in South Asia, we acknowledge the problematic assumptions of gender as simply being binary, and the long-held “North-South divide” that posit issues of sexuality as non-issues in the global South.

While enabling women’s empowerment and promoting women’s rights towards gender equality, the need to engage men and boys in the mission of challenging inequalities and ensuring change has gained momentum in the last couple of decades.  This has been officially acknowledged at the UN level through various processes including a report titled “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality” (Raewyn Connell, 2004) and, later, the launch of HeforShe Campaign of the UN Women (2014).

Work focusing on men and boys are premised on girls, boys, women, men and persons of other sexual orientations and gender identities being equal partners for change, and boys’ and men’s responsibilities as perpetrators of and/or  bystanders in the face of gender discriminations and sexual and gender-based violence. The need to challenge masculinities and male privilege cannot be ignored anymore. Against this backdrop, the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) has been working on the engagement of men and boys.

CHSJ is registered as a Charitable Trust and has its headquarters in New Delhi. Among many networks, it is part of  SANAM (South Asian Network to Address Masculinities) and the international MenEngage Alliance, with CHSJ hosting the MenEngage Alliance in South Asia. CHSJ works on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights as well as Gender and Masculinity. CHSJ seeks to strengthen accountability of public health systems and health governance through research, resource support and advocacy. Likewise, it has been actively advocating for the engagement of boys and men within a gender equality framework. It works with partners and a range of stakeholders in raising awareness on issues, and in building knowledge and skills among policy makers, practitioners and civil society organisations to take leadership in a process of change that will ensure greater social justice.

CHSJ has been undertaking training with its partners at the grassroots, national and regional levels. Through training, CHSJ has facilitated not only knowledge- and capacities-building of Participants to work on issues but it has forged solidarity among Participants and Resource Persons to collectively advance the agenda for gender equality by redefining masculinities and gender relations. CHSJ has seen profound changes at the individual, household and community levels through its work and its advocacy role at the national, regional and international levels is critical. 

This online training is part of the continuum to further CHSJ’s mission. CHSJ offers “Understanding Masculinities – Engaging Men and Boys towards Gender Equality: An Online Training” (see “About the Training” for details).

While this course has been initially conceptualised from the work of SANAM which was dedicated to developing a South Asia focused curriculum on understanding sexual and gender-based violence as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights and their intersections with masculinities, the modules in this online training have been designed to be action-oriented and accessible to Participants of varied backgrounds. CHSJ meant to reach wider audience across locations at the same time, and facilitate better understanding of issues in South Asia and the many interventions on the ground which could prove useful to Participants.

Wishing you a fun and meaningful training!