Tag Archives: Men as Partners

Techniques for Engaging Men in Women’s Activism

Techniques for engaging with men

The need to engage in meaningful partnerships with men and encourage their participation in the design and delivery of women’s rights programs, has only been recently discussed in academic and activist circles. ‘Men as Partners’ is becoming an important field of study corollary – and supplementary to the discipline of women studies. It is becoming an inseparable, co-dependent element in both the study and practice of women’s activism. Whilst it is often claimed that half of the population (women) have been neglected, solutions to their neglect may have committed similar errors in neglecting the other half (men). Perhaps it is inevitable that discussions on women’s rights cannot afford to exclude men. In many contexts, men’s involvement is still essential due to their preponderant exercise of decision-making in micro and macro activities affecting women such as family planning, education of female children, attention to treatment of diseases, access to maternal healthcare during pregnancy and the control of economic assets, amongst others. At the macro level, this extends to nearly every effort in law and policy-making, programming and budget allocation; and at all levels of government. Men’s exercise of political power, access to Ministries, ability to tap into large network of resources and authority over laws and policies affect the allocation and equitable distribution of resources needed for this work.

This Recommendation Paper is designed as an introduction to a list of techniques and questions for reflection that can be used in staff and stakeholder discussions on creating meaningful partnerships with men. I hope it will inspire activists and organizations to think critically and creatively about their approaches when embarking to design and deliver programs to empower men in efforts concerning women’s (and men’s) rights.

Click here to read: Techniques for Engaging Men

Giving Men Choices

How can activists address the needs of men who have become abusers?
Although it can be difficult to feel sympathy for any man who abuses women, activists who seek to correct violent behavior toward women should consider alternatives to punishment. It can be beneficial to look to the concept of “safe spaces” that has been developed by certain women’s rights organizations. In a “safe space,” women have the freedom to share painful experiences without the fear of ridicule. Men who have been victims of abuse themselves, or who have been harmed by poverty or by war, may benefit from taking part in safe spaces that have been designated for them. Activists can ally with non-abusive men to create these spaces, and can focus on the specific factors that contribute to violent behavior. These safe spaces can be part of a mentoring program, or as an aspect of the legal system in communities that benefit from a legal code that recognizes abusive behavior as a crime.

Reflective Questions

  1. -Traditional ideas about male behavior do not always recognize the emotional damage men can receive from child abuse, poverty and war. How can you change this? How would you design an educational program or campaign that brings attention to these problems?
  2. -How can you address the reasons behind violent male behavior without sacrificing an emphasis on the needs of its female victims?
  3. -Sometimes violent male behavior is excused when it is in defense of their community’s sense of honor. If this is true for your community, how can you create a discussion that redefines the idea of honor?
  4. -Can you encourage local religious leaders to use their positions to condemn violence against women?

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Self Awareness Programs for Men on VAW

Based on working paper on ROZAN’s Men as Partners Program.

Written by: Natasha Latiff, Mariam Saidan
Edited by: Sarah Jones, Nishma Jethwa


It has been confirmed throughout numerous studies that in Pakistan women and children are subjected to violence because they are often considered less competent than men. After providing some workshops to train police officers, the Rozan project concludes that in order to be successful in erasing violence against women it is vital to consider men as part of the people who are facing the same problems, but only in different ways. If men have the space to express their feelings and fears they can sensitize to others more easily.


In battling the issue of violence against women, it is important to know working with men is as important as working with women. Looking at problems affecting both women and men as only women’s issues not even causes violence and psychological abuse by men but also will only serve half the purpose.  In this way the responsibility of change making will involve men and women since they are both affected by this social problem. Violence against women does not only affect women but the society and even the abuser.

A. -”When a man beats up a woman, his wife for example, there are many victims in the room: mainly his wife and children, but in a different way, also society and himself. All these victims hurt in different ways, and so the necessary attention they need or deserve should vary accordingly, but this may blind us to the totality of the picture. (p. 4) Men and women both pay a heavy price for gender stereotyping and, as a result, both are limited in the growth of vital human dimensions of their being.” (p. 21)


Although the first victim of violence against women, are women of course, however in a broader picture it is the society as a whole. In the cases that bringing up women’s issues provokes defensive attitudes, it is very helpful to picture the issue as a “social” matter rather than “women’s” issue.

Organizations can consider training, campaigning and awareness programs on violence against women that avoid focusing only on how violence against women affects women but also the abuser and the society.


-What harm do abusers to themselves?

-What are the ways to show men how violence against women affects themselves and the society as a whole?

-Is it correct to warn men about their aggressive behavior towards women by convincing them such behavior is not in their own benefit rather that educating them that violence against women is not ethically correct?

-Should we take human rights based approaches or psychological approach?

B. It will be far more helpful to give men insights and support and to help them stop their abusive behavior rather than blaming and shaming them.

-”It is difficult to sympathize with a batterer, but I say this because we lose so much more when all men are seen as enemies. The former view by which we see men as enemies is more about blaming and shaming men, than about giving them the insights and support to help them stop their abusive behaviour. This is a gender polarizing approach that only serves to perpetuate the “battle of the sexes.” A strategy that sees men as the ‘problem’ is not only shortsighted but also destructive in the long run as it serves to make men defensive and resistant. Therefore, as part of Rozan’s over all mission to “work for a society which is aware, confident and accepting of it self and others,” ‘men’ have always been considered essential partners.” (p. 5)


Organizational culture and programs should re-examine existing practices that may intentionally or unintentionally position men as oppressors or enemies to women’s efforts. These practices may subtly underlie current strategies that include male counterparts (as partners or as recipients) of programs, and in the language and content of distributed material, slogans, campaigns and training sessions.

Organizations can consider training, campaigning and awareness programs of women’s that avoid naming and shaming men, but rather help them develop insight into abusive behaviour.


-Have men reacted defensively against any aspect of the organization/group’s work? Can we re-examine what content or what form of delivery had promulgated that kind of reaction?

C. In order to be able to tackle the issue of violence against women, it is important to explore the fundamental reasons such as ones lay in our culture rather than focusing on individuals cases.

-”Interventions that seek to understand the underlying dynamics of men and women’s lives and provide them with opportunities to reflect on their own problems, challenge norms that are detrimental to their emotional health, hear and understand each other’s perspectives, and gain the confidence to take charge of their own lives, are essential. Sensitization to violence, its clear link to gender inequalities, and hence power structures must be approached in the context of our personal lives and how the responsibility for change rests with all of us in challenging these prescribed norms. It is important that instead of just focusing on each case of violence or on individual men’s acts of violence against women, the entire culture that creates current male roles and identities – defined as ‘masculinities’ – needs to be analyzed and challenged.” (p. 5-6


Organizations can consider training, campaigning and awareness programs of healthy life skills by introducing the destructive norms of the society and their destructive effect on both men and women. That means they can provide a safe environment for participants to express themselves and to hear each other’s perspectives in order to realize that the responsibility for change rests with every member of the society in challenging destructive norms of the society.


-What are the institutionalized social patterns that lead to violence?

-What are the sources to decide which norms lead the society to create current male roles and identities in particular and the entire culture in general?

-Who can decide which norm is wrong and respectively should be challenged?

-How individuals can be inspired and believed that their change as one person can lead to broader change as a society?

D. The only way to change an attitude is to first recognize it and second to understand that we, as a product of our environment carry some harmful attitudes only because they have been transferred to us through norms and culture and not by our decision or choice.

-”We, as products of a patriarchal society, act upon and actively propagate certain harmful attitudes, without seeing just how destructive they are for ourselves and others around us. These attitudes can range from deeply personal issues such as how we express anger to more societal issues such as indifference to cruelty to others and crimes against women. Moreover, crimes are multifaceted, and, often in a traditional society likes ours, woven so intricately into the fabric of our culture that it is hard and sometimes impossible to discern them through the deceptive haze of our prejudices. In order to bring about change we need to acknowledge the biases that we carry with us, and be willing and able to take up the challenge of questioning and changing them. Only then can attitudinal change be achieved.” (p. 9)


Many acts that have been considered as a norm around the world (for example smoking in restaurants) are unacceptable today only because there have been efforts to inform the public, pass laws and stigmatize those activities in a way that has changed hearts and minds. In some countries domestic violence, honor killings for example in Pakistan, is considered as family matters and most of the times they are ignored by the police. First, attitudinal change should be achieved toward these practices and second laws should be passed in forbidding them.

Campaigns and training programs should be set up in informing people how these practices should be challenged by starting tackling cultural and individual attitudes toward them.


-How can an attitudinal change accrue? If something has been practiced over centuries and it is believed by the majority of the society as a correct thing to do, what are the ways to change such a belief?

-In some countries being aggressive is considered as an element of being a stronger man. How exactly that can be proved wrong to men?

E. Self awareness is believed to be a key to open ways to understand others and to sympathize with them. If men have the chance to sensitize to themselves, it is easier for them to sensitize with others.

-”The pathway to attitudinal change, which involves an analysis of our socialization process and the development of healthy life skills is through self awareness, or what we call “self development”. Each individual carries within him/herself, in varying degrees, the capacity to learn and grow, and this capacity needs to be exploited and worked with. Rozan believes that sensitizing people to their own emotions and needs allows individuals to connect better with the needs of others and paves the way for a more sensitized human being, and ultimately, a more humane society. This link between society and our personal lives is crucial if attitudinal change is to be sustainable. If men are sensitized to women’s issues, then they have to first learn to be sensitive to their own needs. Any other approach will be undermined by the perception of these issues as the ‘other sex’s agenda’ or similar.” (p. 9)


Organizations can consider training, campaigning and awareness programs of “self development” in order to teach people how to communicate with themselves and how to share their fear of knowing and admitting their rights and wrongs with others.

Schools and universities or any other educational organizations can consider providing examples for students to explore more clearly how there is a link between society and personal lives. By using positive sides of each society’s culture, different cultural characters or characteristics can be used in inspiring individuals regarding attitudinal change.

F. To avoid resistance sometimes it is better to avoid explicit agendas.

-”Although work on gender and sensitization to violence against women and children was viewed as an essential component, and, in some ways, the final goal of this exercise, it was deliberately not touched upon in the initial brief pilot study due to its sensitive nature.” (p. 10)


Organizations may consider designing programs that encourage self-reflection and self-awareness into personal experiences of ‘masculinity’ and ‘inequality’, and create safe spaces for young boys and men to share their vulnerabilities and contemplate how they and others (including women, marginalized ethnic groups, children, religious minorities) experience similar and different kinds of vulnerabilities. These programs can be designed with that end in itself, rather than having an additional explicit agenda of addressing ‘women’s rights’, a subject that may cause some resistance.

G. -”Understanding the abstract concept of power, and connecting with our own powerlessness and the sources of power in our lives is crucial for the growth of any person.

This importance, however, becomes two-fold for those professionals who come into contact with victims or people who are distressed. Denying our powerlessness, which is something many of us do, not only distances us from the powerlessness of others, but can also make us insensitive, or worse still, cruel. Coming face to face with our own powerlessness is important also because it also allows us to explore options and connect with our strengths to be able to overcome these feelings.” (p. 14)

H. Women should not be defined by their relationship to men but instead by whom they are and what they do.

-”To work for a society free from gender based violence would not be possible if we did not take into account or address the role of women – women not only as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives or as objects whose existence is defined by their relationship to men, but women as entities in their own right, human beings who have the right to live, breathe, work, contribute, earn, be acknowledged and be safe. This is a very essential concept to understand in the context of women’s roles as perceived in Pakistani society.” (p. 15)


While providing training programs on raising awareness for women, organizations can try to introduce participants their separate identity from their husbands, fathers or sons. For example, while gathering information about them all the questions and forms do not have anything to do with their husbands or father’s career. In this way women, as first victims of dependency might feel for the first time than apart from their surroundings, they are who built an identity and personality for themselves. This fact most probably will be frightening for most dependent women but will definitely help them in long term.


-How can we avoid destructive results of teaching a dependent woman how to start building a new identity separate from her husband for example? In many traditions men’s reaction to their wife suddenly willing to have a career is defensive and sometimes aggressive. How can organizations make attitudinal change in men in this regard?

-The methodology, with reference to setting up an atmosphere of respect, trust and safety as well as working in small groups emphasizing participation and experiential learning – was especially effective. Moreover, we feel that the self-growth component before the introduction of gender and violence helped for three main reasons:

1. It provided men with the space to connect with their own needs, identify and express their feelings, their areas of powerlessness and the feelings associated with it.

2. It allowed men to learn about and practice healthy life skills i.e. communication skills, stress and anger management and assertive behaviour. This empowering process in turn provided the motivation and impetus to change.

3. It built a strong sense of trust and alliance between the facilitators and the participants and laid the foundation for the rest of the more ‘sensitive’ and even ‘volatile’ work to proceed. (p. 20)

4.”We strongly feel that had we approached the issue from an objective, rights-based approach only, we would not have had the kind of intense sharing we did. Moreover, we would have had much more covert resistance.” (p. 20)


Organizations may consider designing programs that encourage self-reflection and self-awareness into personal experiences of ‘masculinity’ and ‘inequality’, and create safe spaces for young boys and men to share their vulnerabilities and contemplate how they and others (including women, marginalized ethnic groups, children, religious minorities) experience similar and different kinds of vulnerabilities. These programs can be designed with that end in itself, rather than having an additional explicit agenda of addressing ‘women’s rights’, a subject that may cause some resistance.

-”Targeting women alone, on issues that clearly affect men as well as women, can only serve half the purpose and can even be destructive. We feel that men’s exclusion from gender initiatives can significantly jeopardize success. It also overloads women with the responsibility of change. Any intervention that addresses the issues of women without acknowledging or addressing the concerns of men can sometimes even be dangerous as studies have confirmed that individual and collective anxiety over the perceived loss of male power can provoke violence and psychological abuse by men.” (p. 21)[1]

-”As changes come about in the fabric of gender relations due to the spread of development work, both men and women have to come to terms with their changing gender roles where masculine and feminine values are being analyzed or questioned. We feel strongly that men, like women, also need the space and opportunity to explore and discuss their feelings in this context and that it is crucial that both sexes be able to have opportunities to share their concerns and perspectives with each other in ways which are non confrontational and based on mutual trust. Research has also revealed that men are confused about their changing gender roles and are seeking opportunities in which to discuss these changes.” (p.22)[2]

-”Allowing men the space to express their own feelings, fears, deconstruct their social conditioning and ‘tell their stories’ is critical. Men need to talk to themselves, amongst themselves and to women – only then can the bridges be built.” (p. 22)

Based on a Working Paper Series on Men’s Roles and Responsibilities in Ending Gender Based Violence

Giving Men Choices: A Rozan project with the Police Force in Pakistan by Maria Rashid (2001)

[1] Castells 1997, 136, UNESCO 1997, 6
[2] Barker 1997, 4