Backgrounder - The Government of Canada invests in engaging men and boys in gender equality 


Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality

Budget 2018 committed $1.8 million over two years to develop an engagement strategy for men and boys that promotes equality and pilots innovative, targeted approaches to addressing inequality.

Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) undertook a series of roundtable meetings with stakeholders across the country, asking them to share their experiences and insights on how best to engage Canadians in furthering gender equality, as well as what role they see the federal government playing in advancing this important work. During these meetings, it became clear that men and boys are a vital part of the conversation, not only to make sustained progress on equality for women, girls and people of all gender identities and expressions, but also because they too are impacted by outdated stereotypes of their own roles and can be marginalized as a result of individual identity factors, such as their age, race, religion, education, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

A dedicated engagement with men and boys to advance gender equality would make Canada a leader and would represent an important complementary piece to the already significant steps Canada has made toward achieving gender equality.

Cross-country Roundtables on Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality:

Over 200 participants across the country gathered with WAGE at a series of roundtables to share their insights and expertise on engaging men and boys to advance gender equality. The participants represented a wide diversity of perspectives and life experiences, sectors and professions, as well as the geographic breadth of our country.

Four themes emerged from the discussions:

  • Theme 1 – Identify persistent behaviours contributing to inequality to start unlearning them
    Persistent, ingrained, and systemic beliefs and attitudes are at the core of gender inequality. Much work remains to address these beliefs: this is key to creating positive behavioural change. By starting from a place of mutual respect, and recognizing the different realities of men, women and gender diverse people, this approach invites men and boys to be part of the solution.
  • Theme 2 – Challenge and change negative norms, attitudes and behaviours through accountability and healing
    Modelling positive actions and behaviours is crucial to moving forward. This means we must also create spaces where men can talk to each other, where they can make mistakes, and where they too can heal from historical and systemic trauma and violence. This will require a long-term, multi-pronged approach that balances support and accountability.
  • Theme 3 – Efforts must be sustained through building networks, sharing knowledge, and taking action
    Many organizations and individuals heavily involved in this work communicated a sense of isolation and lack of connection. Accelerating and amplifying change could be achieved through greater collaboration, knowledge exchange and data collection. This was seen by participants as an area where the Government of Canada could play a valuable role.
  • Theme 4 – Accountability and resource scarcity
    No discussion of engagement with men and boys can take place outside the greater context of the work of the movement for gender equality. An approach to engage men and boys must not create inequalities in funding for women and girls, and should acknowledge the leadership of women’s and LGBTQ2 movements in guiding this approach. A priority of the work will be to answer the complex question of what accountability looks like, and how it is institutionalized.

The Path Forward

A dedicated engagement of men and boys in gender equality will be informed by input gathered from the roundtable discussions from 2018. Based on this input, the Government of Canada is investing in four promising projects to engage men and boys in gender equality. These four projects will then provide further evidence to inform the development of a strategy. These organizations also have a strong history of integrating a feminist lens in their work and the ability to leverage capacity and resources to build accountability with women’s organizations.

WAGE continues to work with its federal partners to develop options for a dedicated engagement which will support constructive dialogue, address needs identified during roundtables, and work with men and boys to advance gender equality across social, political and economic spheres. 

Funded Projects:

These projects will address key gaps or expand best practices identified throughout the 2018 roundtable discussions and they will inform the ongoing development of an engagement with men and boys to advance gender equality.

Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS)

Project title: Safe Grey Cup 2019
Funding amount: $212,000

ACWS will promote sports figures as role models to increase awareness of gender-based violence and healthy masculinity working with the Canadian Football League in the lead up to the 2019 Grey Cup. Building on a long history and partnership with the CFL in raising awareness and engaging athletes as ambassadors, the Grey Cup festivities this November in Calgary will prominently feature this work throughout the Grey Cup festival.

For 35 years, the ACWS has been working with members in 32 communities to build collaborative, evidence-based, trauma-informed and sustainable services for women facing domestic violence. The ACWS develops tools for shelters and calls on the public to take action against domestic violence. Its areas of expertise include domestic violence, project management, evaluation, communications and policy development.

Catalyst Canada

Project title: Interrupting Sexism in the workplace
Funding amount: $100,000

Catalyst Canada will promote workplace inclusion and support men as disrupters of sexism in the workplace. A mix of quantitative and qualitative research will be used to explore the conditions under which men will interrupt sexist behaviours or acts, including inappropriate comments, unfair treatment, or harassment, and when they remain silent.

Catalyst is a global non-profit working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women. Founded in 1962, Catalyst helps organizations accelerate progress for women at work with pioneering research, practical tools, and proven solutions to remove barriers and drive change.

FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth)

Project title: Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality
Funding amount: $125,000

FOXY will engage Indigenous youth, particularly young men and boys, on gender equality in the Northwest Territories. This project will fill a major gap in providing a Northern-focused pro-gender equality and violence prevention media campaign that depicts the realities of young people in the North.

SMASH (Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health) is a program that educates and encourages young men to define their own masculinity – what does it mean to be a man. It includes practical, realistic discussions about sexual health and relationships, and straight-forward strategies for communication, consent, and discussions of boundaries. SMASH encourages Northern youth to become exceptional leaders in their own communities, identifying both problems and solutions, and acting as role models in all facets of their lives.

Next Gen Men

Project title: Building and developing a national network
Funding amount: $125,000

Next Gen Men will work with the University of Calgary to build networks and spaces for pro-feminist male leaders to engage among themselves and with feminist/women’s organizations on gender equality-related issues. The broad goal of this project will be to advance the wellbeing of women, gender justice and work from a key set of principles and commitments that include: maintaining a feminist equality agenda, working in partnership with women’s rights and movements, scale up evidence-informed programs and practices, and support systematic, large-scale, and coordinated efforts.

Next Gen Men is an organization connected by the simple belief that men can be better. Its mission is to create spaces through projects and programming to engage, educate, and empower men and boys around gender equality.

The University of Calgary has been ranked amongst the world’s top universities for pushing its limits, challenging itself to do better, and seeking knowledge – wherever that journey takes it. It is never afraid to question conventional wisdom, and it shares what it finds openly and eagerly. It’s an approach that’s led to exponential growth since it was founded in 1966.

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