Report on the UNESCO High-Level Virtual Roundtable on "Transforming Mentalities: Engaging men and boys to address root causes of violence against women"

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I attended a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) event on 25 November 2020 in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The high-level virtual roundtable was on “Transforming mentalities: Engaging men and boys to address the root causes of violence against women”.

This virtual roundtable provides an opportunity to learn from inspiring global leaders and activists what it takes to eradicate violent mentalities harming women, how to engage and educate men to reject all forms of gender-based violence, and how to translate this commitment into actions that can make a lasting difference. UN Senior officials, Government representatives, community leaders and the civil society organizations were asked to Call for Action to scale up their efforts for the elimination of violence against women and take commitments to:

  • Recognize that all forms of VAWG – including domestic, sexual, physical and psychological violence – seriously impact on the lives and freedoms of women and girls, and as such must be priorities on the agenda of the public and private sectors alike and need to be addressed in coordinated ways through multi- stakeholder partnerships with a view to achieve policy coherence, effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Leveraging the transformative power of education to promote peace and respect for diversity and raise awareness on the harm of gender stereotypes for societies by working with the media on gender responsive repesentations, thus supporting young generations to embrace healthy socialization processes, especially with women and girls.
  • Undertake research and collect data to better understand effective ways of ending VAWG, especially based on VAWG prevention. Use this data to inform policies, legislations and practices that take into consideration specific gender- related vulnerabilities in an intersectional perspective.
  • Identify and support innovative ways to engage men and boys for gender equality to prevent violence before it happens, building on the wealth of knowledge and expertise that local organizations have consolidated in this area and supporting such initiatives or scaling them up as appropriate.
  • Launch advocacy actions to end violence against women and girls by engaging men and boys that will not only engage international bodies, but also build public support and engagement.

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Globally, 1 in 5 women have been abused during their childhood (up to 1 in 3 in some countries) and 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime (up to 2 in 3 in some countries), predominantly by their intimate partner (UN Women and WHO). Beyond feminicide and rape, violence against women and girls (VAWG) consists also of harassment and bullying, online and offline, at school, at the workplace and in the street, of glass cliffs and glass ceilings, of inadequate safety equipment where their lives are at stake, and of constant and blatant discrimination everywhere on the planet, despite all our efforts to this day. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this phenomenon: only days after the lockdown measures, domestic violence increased up to 40% in certain countries.

In order to be effective in tackling and eradicating VAWG, we must develop measures that will bring about a lasting change in mentalities – and VAWG should, in fact, primarily concern men.

*** If societies got rid of what Promundo calls the “Man Box”, also defined as a set of restrictive, harmful ideas about what it means to be a man, we could reduce sexual violence by at least 69% and eliminate at least 41% of traffic accidents, 40% of bullying and violence, 39% of suicides, 7% of binge drinking, and 4% of depressive symptoms among men (18-30) in the USA every year (Promundo).***

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNESCO is offering a space to nurture ideas and give visibility to solutions that work to eradicate VAWG at the 2030 horizon with a high-level roundtable and a Master Class for youth.

I have learned so much valuable information by attending this virtual high-level roundtable discussion hosted by the moderator, Danielle Cliche (UNESCO), with the following speakers and panelists:

  • Gabriel Ramos (UNESCO),
  • Gary Barker (Promundo),
  • Chris T. Foley (Indian Law Resource Centre),
  • Edith Schloffer (Women with Borders),
  • Celine Bonnaire (Kering Foundation)

After attending this 2-hour roundtable, I gained understanding of the importance of:

  • Institutional workers, media, UNESCO partner together for future work on the issue.
  • We need role models of men to help with the mindset and precondition of culture and economics connected to women under the situation of violence against women.
  • Promoting private businesses to partner with local NGO, offering flexible funding to local nonprofit organizations support gender base violence survivors
  • Prevention programs with younger generation to put an end to the inter-generation cycle of violence against women.