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UNFPA,Unicef, CSOs commemorate maiden all-men national conference

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By Oumie Bojang

Following the sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence, UN partners in collaboration with men for equality and civil society organisations have commemorated the first ever all men for equality conference at the Paradise Suites Hotel to discuss issues affecting women and girls, boys and men. Discussing positive masculinity is crucial, it is an important way for men and as a nation to promote gender norms and to create a more equitable and gender inclusive society.

Modoulamin Davis, national coordinator, men for equality, said the conference marks the beginning of a new era of men’s involvement in the fight against sexual and gender based violence and the promotion of positive masculinit.

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Naomi Williams, deputy permanent secretary Ministry for Gender Children and Social Welfare, said men and boys have a central role to play in this effort as their involvement and positivity comes with respect, gender equitable attitudes and behaviours that others can emulate. “In other words, leveraging the influence of men as a means of promoting positive masculinity in The Gambia makes them potential partners in promoting gender equality and women empowerment. A key pillar that the ministry envisage will change ideas of masculinity and discriminatory gender norms

Gender based violence in all forms continues to affect the lives and well-being of individuals, especially women and children. Therefore, male involvement is crucial in ending GBV, it is important for men to stand in solidarity with women to create bold visible and unite forces for gender equality

“Over the years, we at the ministry in collaboration with our UN partners and civil society organisations have championed positive masculinity through using men as allies in our capacity building workshops and training to not only cultivate positive masculinity, but also to end violence against women and girls. Such an approach has produced a new generation of gender associates at the household levels, work spaces and our communities where gender champions have been identified to encourage men to advance positive masculinity, gender equality, and women empowerment.”

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Arman Nahore, Unicef country representative, lauded the initiative of discussing gender related activities with only men, seeing mostly men dialoguing and promoting positive masculinity in The Gambia is an important step. 

He said ending violent strategies related to gender must not only empower women but also should engage men and make significant changes in men’s attitudes and practices which are often discouraged by negative notions of masculinity. “Without our efforts as men, boys in this room and beyond we will never put an end to gender based violence.”

Rose Sarr said one of their goals at the UN reproductive health agency’s goal is to build a world with zero gender based violence end harmful practices including FGM and child marriage. UNFPA strives for a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled, “we are therefore routing for this kind of event.”

Six days ago in South Africa, the African Union held a conference on positive masculinity with the theme consolidating commitments toward the African Union convention on ending violence against women and girls, “during this conference heads of states and other participants came to show the world that Africa cares for its people, and men and boys are agents of change.”

Masculinity, she explained, encompasses the social expectations of being a man; it refers to the roles, behaviour and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society. Therefore masculinity is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically rather than being a biologically driven issue.

“When we talk about positive masculinity, I see men who look beyond the social attributes that they have been given. Those are respectful, tolerant and consider themselves equal to women, that’s what a feminist is by the way. A feminist is someone who believes that men women are equal, kind and builds non-violent partnerships with people around particularly women and girls.”

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