Regional Workshop on Masculinities, Gender Equality and Development in the Caribbean

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By Thomas John Holmes

UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), in conjunction with CariMAN (Caribbean Male Action Network), sponsored a Regional Workshop on Masculinities, Gender Equality and Development in the Caribbean in Grenada from September 8–10, 2010. Two members of EduCan are in the leadership of CariMAN. Both organisations, EduCan and CariMAN, are involved in the development of youth in the education section, with CariMAN placing more emphasis on the young males.

What is CariMAN?

CariMAN is a Caribbean initiative which seeks to increase our understanding of masculinity and gender issues through collaboration with existing men and women’s groups and organisations to eliminate gender-based violence and promote gender equality. CariMAN emerged from a Man Talk conference in 2006 funded by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), UNFPA, and UWIHARP (University of West Indies HIV/AIDS Response Programme) and a Working Group on Masculinities, Gender Equality and Social Policy established by UNIFEM.

CariMAN creates space for boys and men to engage them in discussions that address issues such as:

  • Involvement of men in a contemporary Caribbean society
  • Challenges that men face and why these problems exist
  • Men’s involvement in bringing change to improve their life situations
  • Men as champions for change
  • Men directly and vigorously involved to help improve the following:
  • Prevention of HIV and AIDS transmission
  • Prevention of gender-based violence
  • Promotion of healthy development of young men

The implementation of CariMAN’s principles in our schools can assist the Caribbean Ministries of Education tremendously in helping young male students and male teachers to address their life situations, establish leadership roles and be champions for change in the elimination of crime and violence that seem to be engulfing our youthful population.

Support from United Nations Agencies and other significant stakeholders

UNFPA, UNIFEM, other United Nations (UN) agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have worked to advance gender equality through an engagement of persons working in the field of masculinities. This programming on masculinities is central to the achievement of gender equality since harmful stereotypical gender roles as well as unequal relations affect men and women negatively.

Further, this work has been advanced through concrete programming in the fields of ending violence against women, HIV and AIDS and shared family responsibilities.

General Discussions

CariMAN outlined its general aim, purposes, initiatives and contribution to the development of males in collaboration with women’s groups and organisations. The Chair of CariMAN, Peter Weller, also discussed the organisation’s intention to create meaningful space for men to express their views on various issues and also the organisation’s anticipated involvement in promoting gender equality, masculinity, elimination of gender-based violence and the prevention of HIV.

Jewel Quallo-Rosberg and Roberta Clarke, representatives of UNFPA and UNIFEM, respectively, noted their UN agencies’ support to the cause of the advancement of males and strengthening the efforts of men and women in a collaborative atmosphere to bring about necessary changes in the area of gender equality. UNFPA noted the agency’s major focus on Masculinity by engaging men in the process and encouraging them to reflect on sexuality and masculinity and to help them develop respect and gender equality.
UNIFEM confirmed its established collaboration with CariMAN by assisting in the organisation’s funding and ongoing development. UNIFEM also expressed its satisfaction in working with CariMAN, which it recognised as an ongoing process, and anticipates a prolonged relationship with the organisation.

UNFPA provided strategic development areas of focus, which include:

  • Men as partners against Gender-Based Violence
  • Strengthening men’s resistance to violence and conflict, including sexual violence
  • Fostering constructive male involvement in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and Rights
  • Encouraging men’s positive engagement as fathers and careers

Important discussion evolved from the topic: “Setting the Stage – Overview of Masculinities Theorizing and Programming in the Caribbean” which provided the opportunity to reflect on boys, young males, and their attitude to the process of gender equality, relationships in the family and school and their involvement in fatherhood, crime and violence. The discussion also included Caribbean governments’ debate on the connection between crime and education.

There was also extended discussion on the situation of HIV and AIDS among our youthful population. As Executive Chair to EDUCAN, I was able to identify with the issues and concerns that are linked to the youth, particularly the young, school age males.

Two members of EduCan, Arthur Pierre and I, were panellists that discussed the topic: “What about the Boys?” focusing on:

  • Establishing a Mentoring Programme for in and out of school youths is important.
  • Increased punitive action is ineffective and only augments negative behaviour and resistance to change.
  • Socialisation, Democracy, Culture and Government can play an integral role in the promote-ion of Masculinity
  • Young males’ involvement in anti-social behaviour, including criminal and violent activities, illegal drug use and unhealthy lifestyle often result in exclusion from school and problems with the law.
  • Young men need to build positive relationships with the opposite sex especially in order to reduce or prevent gender- based violence and HIV and AIDS.
  • Father absenteeism and lack of male role models in the homes have negative effect on young males’ development.
  • Establishment of learning/remedial centres can facilitate the involvement of in and out of school young males who encounter difficulties in school and with the law. Dominica is developing such a facility called Camp Rescue Londonderry.
  • Incarceration and constant punitive action are not the solution. There is a greater need to listen to the young males.
  • The role and responsibility of the media need to be addressed, especially in the message being transmitted to the youth.

The discussions that ensued concluded that young males need immediate attention to assist them in addressing their issues including HIV and AIDS, Gender-Based Violence, and Crime and Violence.

A UNFPA representative made a valuable presentation on the “Importance of Results Based Management,” which addressed Monitoring and Evaluation, Evidence Based Planning and Strategic Focus. The presentation identified that appropriate and effective planning with relevant data recording will greatly increase the opportunities for accessing funds and sponsorship.

Specific areas of note during general and group discussions:

  • Empowerment of CariMAN and young males and men should not be pursued at the expense of girls and women. It must not be seen as a competition but it should promote greater collaboration between men and women in the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence.
  • There is a need to re-introduce Civics in our school curriculum.
  • HFLE programmes need to be strengthened to include more information on Gender-Based Violence, HIV and AIDS, and Crime and Violence
  • There is a growing need for advocacy. However, advocacy will be inadequate and ineffective in bringing about the desired change without, first of all, establishing capacity building for CariMAN members.


Recommendations:

  • EduCan should foster links with relevant partners namely UNFPA, UNIFEM and CariMAN to address gender equality and gender-based violence issues and how this collaboration can help in the prevention of HIV
  • It may be appropriate for individual EduCan members to initiate discussion with their Bureau of Gender Affairs and/or Male Desks (if this has been established) to address young males’ attitude to gender equality, gender based-violence, prevention of HIV, and involvement in anti-social behaviour
  • It would be helpful for EduCAN to develop an exclusive partnership with CariMAN to collaborate on efforts to address issues that challenge in and out of school youth

 

Thomas John Holmes
Guidance Counsellor
Executive Chair, EduCan
Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development
EST Building
Cornwall Street
Roseau
Commonwealth of Dominica
W: 1-767-266-5591 H: 1-767-448-8008
Cell: 1-767-613-2076//1-767-275-6217
E-mail: hthomas54@hotmail.com