Hosted by the Interagency Gender Working Group Male Engagement Taskforce
Background: The data and reporting are increasingly clear: Men have specific vulnerabilities and roles related to COVID-19, and key gender considerations underpin them. Some of these vulnerabilities and roles relate to men’s health behaviors (such as their comparatively lower use of masks), men’s historically limited roles in caregiving, and increased rates of domestic violence experienced by women during the COVID-19 quarantine. In the urgency to control the pandemic and ensure critical health services, little attention has been paid to the potentially positive role that men and boys can play and to strategies to shift harmful masculinities to mitigate the pandemic’s effects within relationships, households, and communities.
View presentations, agenda, registration, and a recording of the event here.
Forum Overview: On September 22, 2020, the Interagency Gender Working Group’s Male Engagement Taskforce (METF) co-chairs (Jhpiego, the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown, JHUCCP, and the Population Council) hosted a virtual forum, Emerging Strategies to Engage Men and Boys in Addressing the Gendered Impact of COVID-19. Over 160 participants joined the discussion about research and programming on meaningfully engaging men when responding to COVID-19. Participants logged on from 34 countries around the world, including Bangladesh, the Bahamas, Canada, India, Jordan, Peru, the Philippines, Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, and Zambia.
Julie Pulerwitz and Ann Gottert (Population Council) opened the meeting with an overview of the meeting agenda. They then updated participants on the new two-page tool developed by the METF co-chairs called “DO’s and DON’Ts for Engaging Men and Boys” for use across health areas. They shared the process of developing the tool with METF members, gender experts, and potential users, including select USAID missions and explained how the tool has been disseminated since its launch in January 2020.
Myra Betron from Jhpiego then highlighted key issues related to gender considerations for men with respect to COVID-19, including men’s vulnerability to COVID-19, strains on household relations due to COVID-19 (including increased intimate partner violence), and the changing and potential role of men as gender-equitable agents of change in the community and household. These findings drew on a commentary written by the METF co-chairs (though not in this official capacity) and published in Global Public Health, “Men and COVID-19: Adding a Gender Lens.”
Participants also heard from Jeff Decelles and Boyd Mkandawire from Grassroots Soccer, who presented “Five-a-Side: Engaging Adolescent Boys and Young Men in Zambia Through Adapted Sport-Based SRHR Programming During COVID-19,” which presented early results of their work on adapting their curriculum, Skillz, for application through mobile phones. Saul Gomez from the Guatemala Network of Men for Gender Equality and Equity presented “Guatemala’s Network of Men for Gender Equality and Equity Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which highlighted the organization’s social media campaign on gender-based violence prevention, fatherhood, and caregiving during the pandemic. Finally, representatives from the Foundation for Male Engagement from Uganda, Joseph Nyende and Namata Mirembe Tend, presented findings from their rapid assessment in “Exploring Lived Realities of Ugandan Men and Care Work During COVID-19.”
Participants and presenters then separated into three breakout groups to discuss key takeaways from the presentations, identify relevant examples from their own work, and consider critical next steps for research and programming.
Looking Ahead: Some key next steps, as summarized from the plenary, include:
- Additional qualitative assessment to understand how virtual programming works and what an ideal package of programming looks like.
- Further evaluation of the ways digital interventions can influence gender and social norms.
- Continuing to adapt and maintain virtual programming targeting specific sub-groups that may be particularly hard to reach.
- Conducting more rigorous research on gender-based violence and men and care work during the pandemic.
- Promoting positive action by men in caregiving through community-based role models and social media and community radio.
- Adopting streamlined messaging around “doable actions” that men and boys can take to positively respond to COVID-19, with the potential to scale up the messaging worldwide.
Co-chairs of the Male Engagement Taskforce: Myra Betron, Jhpiego and MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership; Julie Pulerwitz, Population Council; Dominick Shattuck, Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs (JHUCCP); and Natacha Stevanovic-Fenn, Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Child and Human Development, Georgetown University.