Exploring the Impact of Men's Participation in a Gender-Transformative Program on Female Partners and Kin in Urban India

By Das, Madhumita; Bankar, Shweta et al. | International Journal of Men's Health, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Impact of Men's Participation in a Gender-Transformative Program on Female Partners and Kin in Urban India


Das, Madhumita, Bankar, Shweta, Ghosh, Sancheeta, Verma, Ravi, Jaime, Maria Catrina D., Fewer, Sara, O'Connor, Brian, Miller, Elizabeth, International Journal of Men's Health


Over two decades ago, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development highlighted men as important targets for sexual and reproductive health promotion. This focus emerged from the experiences of many health-promoting agencies in the 1980s and 1990s which recognized that without working with men, chances to improve women's health would be challenging to attain. The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) was explicit in its call to involve men and boys in achieving gender equality. In recent years, the need to involve men in violence reduction programs has been underscored by the United Nations as well as major global health organizations (Barker, Ricardo, & Nascimento, 2007; International Center for Research on Women & Instituto Promundo, 2007; United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], Promundo, & MenEngage, 2010). Studies on gender-based violence (GBV) demonstrate that gender-inequitable attitudes and practices are key factors in GBV perpetration (Das et al., 2014; Hines, 2007; Jewkes, Dunkle, Nduna, & Shai, 2010; Jewkes, Sikweyiya, Morrell, & Dunkle, 2011; McCauley et al., 2014; McMahon, 2010; Miller et al., 2015; Santana, Raj, Decker, La Marche, & Silverman, 2006; Warkentin & Gidycz, 2007) and highlight the central role of men in transforming unequal power relations (Fabiano, Perkins, Berkowitz, Linkenbach, & Stark, 2003; Jewkes, Wood, & Duvvury, 2010; Katz, Heisterkamp, & Fleming, 2011). Initiatives focusing on men's roles and responsibilities and emphasizing men as part of the solution to combat GBV have gained increased attention in recent years as a central approach in GBV prevention (Barker, Nascimento, Segundo, & Pulerwitz, 2004; De Koker, Mathews, Zuch, Bastien, & Mason-Jones, 2014; Jewkes, Flood, & Lang, 2015; UNFPA et al., 2010). Strategies that focus on shifting individual-level inequitable attitudes and behaviors include sensitization workshops for men focused on gender beliefs and violence against women, law enforcement trainings, and awareness raising activities or campaigns targeted at and led by men who denounce violence against women (Barker, Ricardo, Nascimento, Olukoya, & Santos, 2010; Dworkin, Treves-Kagan, & Lippman, 2013; Foubert & Perry, 2007; Gidycz, Orchowski, & Berkowitz, 2011; Katz et al., 2011; Pulerwitz et al., 2015; Pulerwitz, Michaelis, Verma, & Weiss, 2010; Verma et al., 2006). The World Health Organization's 2015 convening on the status of women highlighted these and related strategies to ensure greater gender equity-fair and just distribution of resources and opportunities (World Health Organization, 2015)-as a means to promote health for women and men.

Beyond directly confronting men's attitudes that condone violence against women, GBV prevention programs have increasingly sought to promote gender equity more explicitly, that is, challenging traditional gender norms: beliefs and practices that define how men and women should behave. Gender-equitable relationships have been defined by WHO, UNFPA, and other global organizations as (1) supportive relationships based on respect and equality rather than sexual conquest, (2) involvement as a partner/father in terms of childcare and household activities, (3) shared responsibility for reproductive health, and (4) opposition to partner violence (Barker et al., 2007; UNFPA et al., 2010). Programs seeking to engage men and boys to improve women's and men's health and contribute to greater gender equity more broadly-collectively referred to as gender-transformative interventions-have increased in the past twenty years (Jewkes et al., 2008; Kim et al., 2007; Pulerwitz, Martin, et al., 2010; Pulerwitz, Segundo, Nascimento, & Barker, 2006). Such interventions seek to 1) foster critical examination of inequalities and gender roles, norms and dynamics, 2) strengthen positive norms that support equality and enabling environments, 3) promote the position of women, girls, and marginalized groups, and 4) transform the underlying social structures, policies, and broadly held social norms that perpetuate gender inequalities (Gupta, 2000; Gupta, Whelan, & Allendorf, 2002). …

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