Tips for including men in Women's Economic Empowerment

Part of the WEE Gateway

Gender equality cannot be achieved by working with women alone; men need to be engaged too. Plans for effective engagement of men and boys need to be included in WEE programmes as early as possible, both on the individual level and the community level. Engagement with men is necessary to redefine social norms and change power imbalances. Plans for engagement should always take into account local context and gender norms, and should be done with a ‘do no harm’ approach to help prevent possible backlash towards women. Some examples of best practices are:

  • Capacity building activities. These are a useful tool to encourage men to adopt positive masculinities. Capacity building can take the form of trainings, workshops, discussion groups, etc. and the main aim is to trigger behavioural change so that men become more supportive of WEE.
  • Inviting male partners to the trainings that target women. This approach helps mitigate jealousy or hesitancy from male family members when projects solely target women and can lead to a better understanding and recognition of their female family members’ economic activity. It can also encourage men to see the benefit of women’s economic empowerment for the household as a whole, and thus trigger, for example, a husbands’ active support for their wives’ business or employment opportunities, while at the same time benefiting from the training themselves.
  • Combining single-sex and mixed activities. Some discussions are better held in single-sex groups, to ensure a safe space for women and women to express their feelings freely. Such sessions can also then be repeated in mixed-sex groups, as women may speak about different topics in each group. Other sessions, on topics such as decision-making on a household level, can benefit from mixed-group discussions from the beginning.
  • Identifying and bring further support to male gender champions. Male champions can help to bring about support from other men. These gender champions can be individual men, such as community leaders or gender-equality allies, or male-led NGOs promoting positive masculinities and gender equality.
  • Campaigning. This strategy allows the promotion of positive masculinities through shining light on male gender champions at the local and global levels. It is possible to use new technologies such as social media, or more traditional means of dissemination such as flyers, signs or banners. Combinations of public events to trigger discussion in the community, such as theatre pieces or football matches, with more targeted interventions such as door-to-door campaigning or peer-to-peer discussions, have also been used.