Gender, women and health

The role of men in promoting gender equality

For a long time, a commitment to promoting gender equality in health, as in other areas of social development and human rights, has focused on women’s empowerment and been driven largely by women. This can be largely attributed to the fact that women are the ones mostly disadvantaged by the patterns of gender inequality, and so have been the ones to lead the cry for redress.

This belief has led many to assume that gender issues are only about women and of no concern to men and boys. This focus, gladly has begun to change, and there is a growing interest in the roles and responsibilities of men and boys in relation to gender equality. There are several reasons for this:

  • Men need to be held accountable so that their actions and attitudes are examined also in the light of social and cultural norms, policies and practices, and not just biology. Norms, policies and practices can and do change
  • Women and men need to work together for greater gender equality and not merely blame each other for the inequalities and inequities. This means that men's awareness needs to be raised concerning the causes and results of their attitudes and actions on the people in their lives for the benefit of all
  • Some men are beginning to show interest in different settings and in challenging the existing gender order

GWH has been challenged to work on the role of men in promoting gender equality and changing gender-based inequity in health. In 2006, WHO conducted an expert meeting to develop a framework for working on this aspect of gender in health.

Some other examples of GWH work include: