HeForShe Campaign: How men are engaging in the journey towards gender equality

When world leaders converged for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year, an idea to engage key decision makers of governments, corporations, and universities around the world to drive change from the top was tabled.
Motorcyclists display messages showing their commitment to support gender equality. (Faustin Niyigena)
Motorcyclists display messages showing their commitment to support gender equality. (Faustin Niyigena)

When world leaders converged for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year, an idea to engage key decision makers of governments, corporations, and universities around the world to drive change from the top was tabled. 

The decision was approved and given the name; the IMPACT 10x10x10. When it was put to a vote, President Paul Kagame was the first person to raise his hand in support of the initiative. 

Kagame immediately signed on as the campaign ambassador and made commitments to support the campaign. Other leaders including UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, heads of multi-national corporations and leading academics joined in.

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Judith Kazaire, the advisor to the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion (R), with a representative from UN Women talk to a group of motorcyclists about the campaign, in Remera, Gasabo District recently. (Faustin Niyigena)

IMPACT 10x10x10 champions make gender equality an institutional priority, committing to real change within and beyond their respective organisations. Each IMPACT champion implements the HeForShe IMPACT framework and develops three bold, game-changing commitments to advance and ultimately achieve gender equality for all. 

It is a group dedicated to changing the world. 

HeForShe is a UN-Women’s international initiative aimed at mobilising everyone, especially men and youth, to create and increase awareness on gender equality, the fight against gender-based violence and promotion of ICT for all.

Understanding the concept

Fatuma Ndangiza, Deputy CEO of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), says there is commitment to the attainment of gender equality in Rwanda.

She says that the HeforShe campaign was started at the grassroots level because it would simplify people’s understanding and men are needed to be a part of it.

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Fatuma Ndangiza, Deputy CEO, Rwanda Governance Board. (File)

“Men should sign up to this but apart from the signing, we want them to be champions in their local communities to not only join the HeForShe campaign but also understand and believe in the campaign’s purpose,” she says
Ndangiza said that it is hard for any society to develop if half of its population is left out. 

“It’s a question of really understanding the rationale. The UN women and other people in this movement saw the necessity to engage men just as they do with other issues such as poverty or security. We also don’t want a situation where men will be left behind,” she said. 

She says that with more awareness, people will eventually understand the need and importance of the HeforShe campaign.

“The signatures are still few and I think it’s mainly because of lack of information but not the will. I am sure that many more will join the campaign,” she said

The campaign’s target is One Billion men and youth in a period of 12 months worldwide. So far, 400,000 have signed on the challenge. In Rwanda, the target is 100,000 men before the end of the year. Signing has been going on since June but only less than 2000 have since signed up.

Ndangiza said that gender inequality is unacceptable in modern day society. 

“We believe that once we joined hands, we can be able to make a difference and end this evil of gender based violence,” she said.

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Edouard Munyamaliza.

Why men should care

Edouard Munyamaliza is the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC); a Non-Governmental Organisation striving to encourage men to promote gender equality.

In an interview with The New Times, Munyamaliza said that the best way to achieve growth is to, first of all, realise that women empowerment and development does not benefit women alone but society at large.

“Men themselves should understand that supporting a woman is the best way to become a real man. They should also know that by transforming their own behaviour and attitude towards women, they are creating a positive and healthy path towards a better world for everyone,” he said

He added that men should not think of women empowerment as a threat and should instead discard the cultural mentality that the man should be dominating. 

In support of the HeforShe campaign, RWAMREC collected 17000 signatures in the first week of August.

Munyamaliza said that there is need to sensitise men so that the campaign is championed with those who have a positive mind.

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What is being done to change the mindset?

Munyamaliza says that changing people’s attitudes and behavior is a slow and long process. On their part, RWAMREC is creating space for men through workshops at the village level to help them reflect on their life experiences, and he believes that, with that, they will definitely challenge notions of masculinity that are violent and discriminatory.

“It’s only when you reflect on your own life that you can be able to challenge your attitude if it needs change.

Some are hard to convince because of their strong belief in tradition not realising that sometimes these traditional norms are harmful to our society, especially to women and children,” he adds.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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