October 15, 2012

Understanding Gender Equity

More often than not, when we work toward gender equity, we often focus strongly on teaching girls and women how to grow resilient and confident - able to work toward their own parity.  I'm proud that at Chrysalis, we realized that our work is critical to boys and men, and that we now have 2 terrific men (thanks, Joe and Drew!) moving our agenda forward.
For boys and young men, there are sound messages to share about why gender equality is so important:
1.  When men and boys believe in fairness, they can see that their sisters, mothers, girlfriends, and other female friends and relatives are often not treated the same way they are, and perhaps do not have the same opportunities and choices in their lives.
2.  An understanding of equity will help boys be comfortable in their own identity, comfortable expressing emotions, and able to build positive relationships based on mutual trust and respect.
3.  Equality of genders is about a more productive way of viewing power in relationships that benefit both sexes.
Gender equality truly begins in the family, and the father's role is tremendously important, not only to his daughter, but to a son.  Fathers who take part in domestic work, values and supports his children equally, hugs sons and daughters, and treats his wife as an equal will have a significant effect on how his son treats his own family.  Research has shown that:
- Men who are positively involved in the lives of their children or stepchildren are less likely to be depressed or violent.
- Boys whose fathers are more involved are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to delay sexual experimentation until they are older.
- Boys with positive role models are less likely to hold harmful stereotypes and more likely to notice and question unfairness and inequity.
- An international study found that 14-year-old adolescents boys who are well connected to their parents, feel understood and cared for, and get along with their parents have more social connectedness and are less likely to be depressed.
So how to be certain that boys grow up with a sense of gender equity?  UNICEF recommends a 6-point plan:
1.  Start young - preschool education should promote equality between girls and boys and involve parents.
2.  School curricula should challenge stereotypes and acknowledge differences.
3.  Boys and girls should both participate in age-appropriate sex education.
4.  Schools must be made safe for both girls and boys.
5.  Campaigns against discrimination should involve men and boys as well as girls and women.
6.  Policies and laws should allow for and promote active participation of both parents in the lives of their children.
Although Chrysalis funding is committed to the needs of girls and women, our efforts are strong to educate and involve men in the critical work of eliminating stereotypes and promoting fairness and equity between all.