Episode 2 - Why is it difficult to engage boys and men in the fight for gender equality?

Why is it difficult to engage boys and men in the fight for gender equality?

Gender (in)equality is often treated as a women's and girls’ issue, but boys and men are also part of the equation. Power imbalances create patriarchal structures and both women and men uphold these structures (often involuntarily). What does it mean to engage boys and men in the fight for gender equality? Why is it difficult to get them to support gender equality? And why do we need to talk about masculinities in the plural?

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    In the second episode of ECDPM's podcast series 'Minding the gap: conversations on gender', Karim Karaki talks to gender expert Carla Pagano about the role boys and men play in supporting or undermining gender equality. Drawing on Carla's over 20 years of experience, they explore why it is important to involve them in gender equality efforts and provide practical examples of how this is already being done. They also delve into how patriarchal structures can negatively affect men. 

    About the guest

    Carla Pagano is a feminist international consultant in gender equality and human rights. She holds a master’s in Human and women rights in Islam and a master’s in studies of sexual difference. 

    Carla has worked for the past 23 years in large-scale international programmes, on gender equality across the Middle East and North Africa region, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. She has extensive experience in leading capacity development efforts of public bodies to mainstream gender in their policies and programmes. An Italian native speaker, Carla speaks Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

    Listen to the episode

    The views expressed in this episode are those of the author and guest and not necessarily those of ECDPM.


    Episode breakdown


    01:10 - If men and boys are part of the problem, they are also part of the solution

    02:00 - What actually is masculinity?

    04:20 - Why do we talk about masculinities in the plural?

    06:57 - This is what we call toxic masculinities

    08:17 - The emergence of positive masculinities

    09:25 - How are men reacting to a gradual loss of power?

    11:03 - How women's unpaid labour benefits men and the economy

    12:10 - Traditional expectations of masculinity vs modern expectations of masculinity

    13:15 - Gender traditionalism is alive and well

    18:40 - Gender norms damage men too

    21:04 - Good practices from Tunisia, Jordan, Kenya, Zambia and England

    28:22 - A reflection on Islam, religions and gender equality

    Coming up

    How to put women at the centre of food systems transformation in Africa?

    In the third episode of the series, Cecilia D'Alessandro and her guest will delve into the status of women in agrifood systems in Africa and will help us understand how to put women at the centre of the food system’s change.


    Previous episodes

    • Are we critical enough of gender expertise?

    In the first episode of the series, Kawsar Laanani and Maëlle Salzinger navigate key tensions and obstacles around the concept and practice of gender expertise. Drawing from their own experiences and using an intersectional feminist perspective, they delve into the rising presence of gender experts in international cooperation and offer insights on how we can collectively do better to advance gender equality.

    Find more information about this episode, including some recommended readings from the authors, here.

    About the podcast series

    'Minding the gap: conversations on gender' is ECDPM's podcast series entirely devoted to shedding light on topics in which gender is often overlooked, but where promising lessons are emerging. 

    Who is a gender expert? Why is it important to engage men and boys in fighting for gender equality? How are women empowerment, climate action, and urban development interlinked?

    Throughout the episodes, you will hear from researchers, activists and experts working in Europe, Africa and the MENA region to gain insights into what we can collectively do to build a society based on gender equality.

    Recommended readings

    For a deep dive into this topic, Karim recommends the following work:

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