Even though we're seeing the first serious contender for a female head of state in the United States, and high box office sales from a romantic comedy with a complex female protagonist, we're still quite a ways - at least 80 years at the current rate of change - from seeing true gender equality.
Globally, women still make 24% less than men do, experience violence at alarming rates from male partners, and do 2.5 times more unpaid care work. If we want to see this change - to see women achieve full economic, social and political equality - we need to work with men and boys as partners with women and girls. But, how?
At Promundo, we've been working for almost 20 years, conducting research and advocacy, and implementing and scaling up programs to find out what really works when it comes to engaging men in the fight for gender equality. This is what we've discovered:
1. Challenge stereotypes: We can't change what it means to be a man without talking about it. Media, in particular, sends a wide variety of messages about how to "man up" and to "be a man" which, more often than not, involve taking sexual risks, being dominant, and being violent. We need to encourage men to deconstruct the expectations of what it means to be a man and to dare to define their own paths.
2. Approach from all angles: Talking is a great start, but we can't just work with individual men on a small scale. We need to think big - working with whole communities, as well as nationally and internationally - and to target schools, employers, health systems, and more.
3. Get governments involved: We will never achieve gender equality without policies that support it. That means access to contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education; it means maternity and paternity leave, non-discrimination clauses, and laws that hold perpetrators of violence and sexual assault accountable.
4. Partner up: We can't do it alone. Working with role models, political and religious leaders, and even celebrities can help amplify messaging and impact, normalizing respect for women and creating a positive movement for change.
5. Think about who cares: The fact that men and women are still far from equal when it comes to unpaid childcare and domestic work might be one of the single biggest indicators of - and obstacles to - equality. We need to push to radically redistribute care work to achieve political, social, and economic equality for women and men.
6. End the cycle of violence: When men see or experience violence as children, it's one of the strongest risk factors for them to use violence later in life. Knowing this is powerful. It means that we know we must intervene with young men and new fathers to break the cycle - and to teach the strength of non-violence from early on.
7. Work together: Engaging men does not mean silencing or ignoring women or the powerful work that women's rights groups have been doing for decades. Just the opposite. It's essential that men are thoughtful, educated allies and advocates - and for this to happen, men and women need to work together.
This blog was co-authored by Alexa Hassink, Communications Officer and Program Associate at Promundo.