5 Examples of Men Standing Up for Women’s Rights around the World

Women’s empowerment and women’s reproductive health and rights are often viewed solely as a women’s issue. Yet, achieving gender equality is impossible without engaging men and boys.  

UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency, works around the world to engage men in a range of issues including family planning, parenting, gender norms, and violence against women.   

Here are 5 examples of men standing up for women’s rights:

1. Men are supporting their partners through pregnancy and childbirth.

Anything to do with pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for babies is often left to the mother, even if she needs time to rest and recover. This can be dangerous for a new mom, as she may be unable to get the medical care she needs.  

New dad bathes his baby while mom rests. © Thitiporn Winijmongkolsin/UNFPA

In Thailand, a UNFPA hospital requires men to be present for check-ups and prenatal classes. The soon-to-be dads learn how to bathe and feed their babies and take on more household chores.  

Men’s presence throughout pregnancy and after the newborn’s arrival have had wonderful outcomes. Partners report feeling closer and couples are better equipped to make choices about when to have their next child. 

2. Men are caring for their children. 

Women take on many childrearing responsibilities, like reading to their kids, taking them to school or the park, and cooking meals for the family. When women share the overwhelming majority of childcare responsibilities, they are limited in their ability to have relationships and opportunities outside of the home. This can contribute to dangerous ideas about what women are capable of and what their role in society should be. 

Filming of the TV show Fathers, which follows a day in life of a dad. © Retrica

In Georgia, some men are shifting ideas about fatherhood. A TV show there, produced with UNFPA, follows a father spending the day with his kids – getting them ready, changing diapers, making lunch- all without the help of his wife.  

Normalizing fathers as equally active parents promotes ideas of gender equality, both in the home and outside of it. 

3. Men are confronting harmful ideas around masculinity.

When men feel they have a right to women’s bodies or that being emotionally vulnerable is a sign of weakness, women are hurt.  

In Zimbabwe, ideas about masculinity have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. There, masculinity is defined by control and toughness. This mentality is expressed through multiple sexual partners, acts meant to scare and control women, and an unwillingness to involve partners in decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.  

Men at a Padare meeting in Zimbabwe. © George Ngwa

Padare, a men’s organization supported by UNFPA, encourages men and boys to educate themselves on sexual health issues, like HIV/AIDS, to open up to each other and their partners, and to take on care responsibilities for those living with AIDS. 

These actions reduce the burden on women to be the sole emotional and physical care providers. They also challenge the idea that men are dominant and women are submissive.

4. Men are stopping other men from committing acts of gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence comes in many different forms: domestic abuse, reproductive coercion, sexual assault, rape, economic control, child marriage, sex trafficking, catcalling, harassment, and others. These behaviors are meant to terrify and control women and girls. 

Man who works to end GBV in camps for displaced people in Myanmar. © UNFPA/Yenny Gamming

In Myanmar, some men are stepping up to call out other men on their harmful behavior. These men are part of a UNFPA program that teaches how to approach an abuser and deescalate the situation so that the woman and her family will not face retribution.  

These men also try to educate abusers on why their actions are wrong. Slowly, the idea that women should put up with abuse from their husband, a belief that is held in many places around the world, is being challenged.  

5. Men are taking on family planning responsibilities.

Women are often expected to talk to their doctors about their birth control options if they wish to prevent pregnancy. Even with condoms, women frequently must insist on their usage. This attitude is informed by misconceptions about condoms and ideas about masculinity.  

However, in Ethiopia, some men are taking family planning into their own hands and their own bodies. One husband recognized that he and his wife were done having children, so they travelled to a UNFPA clinic that provided vasectomies. 

Man who had a vasectomy in order to share family planning responsibilities with his wife. © UNFPA Ethiopia

Vasectomies are effective at preventing pregnancy and are relatively quick to perform. Long-term birth control is not the best option for all women, so having all methods of family planning available, like vasectomies, allows couples to make the best decisions for their lives and health.

When men equally share in family planning, household duties, child, sick and elder care, and work to educate themselves on destructive behaviors and mentalities, women can participate as partners and members of society.  

Empowering women to reach their full potential cannot be done without asking men to change their attitudes toward masculinity, power, and their roles as fathers and partners. UNFPA works with men and boys to support women, girls, and sexual and reproductive rights.

In honor of Father's day help UNFPA's work with men and boys to support women and girls' reproductive health and rights.


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