Event Overview: On September 12, 2023, the Interagency Gender Working Group’s Male Engagement Task Force (METF) hosted the webinar Men’s Engagement in Parenting and Caregiving: Assuming New Roles and Responsibilities for Stronger Families and Communities, which drew more than 190 live participants and 385 registrants. METF Co-Chair Dominick Shattuck (Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Breakthrough ACTION) opened the meeting by emphasizing the importance of understanding and supporting men’s engagement in parenting and caregiving and its potential to improve cross-sector global health outcomes.
Taveeshi Gupta, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning at Equimundo, began the presentations by sharing findings from the State of the World’s Fathers 2023 Report analyses of online survey responses from nearly 12,000 participants from 17 countries. She emphasized the need to establish national care policies, expand social protection programs, and provide state-supported, high-quality child care to fill the gaps identified in the study. Gupta also suggested that the health sector should promote fathers’ involvement from the prenatal period through birth and childhood as well as men’s involvement in caregiving.
Next, Kirunda Ramadhan presented key takeaways from a Eastern and Southern Africa learning convening hosted by the Impact and Innovations Development Centre, which convened practitioners to share experiences and set a roadmap for male engagement in child caregiving and early childhood development. Following the presentations, METF Co-Chair Peter Waiswa (Makerere University, Agency for All) facilitated a roundtable discussion with three panelists: Thomas Churchyard (Kwakha Indvodza), Godfrey Siu (Makerere University), and Yara Tarabulsi (Global Alliance for Care).
The roundtable discussion emphasized the following key points:
- Including men in caregiving programming can reduce intimate partner violence and improve the well-being of children and the family unit by promoting positive masculinities.
- Men and caregiving programming should develop men’s understanding and capacity to engage positively in their children’s development. In most families, helping men assume responsibilities beyond the provider role benefits the entire family by reducing women’s burden of caregiving and facilitating more meaningful engagement with children.
- Currently, in academic circles care is defined narrowly as supporting the mental, emotional, and overall well-being of a person or family. There is a need to broaden this definition beyond the individual and household levels to include the environment, community, economies, and social structures.
- Policies and interventions supporting men’s role in caregiving must account for the challenges of shifting men’s roles and responsibilities beyond conventional masculinities.
- Researchers should identify key roles and motivators for engaged fatherhood and program implementers should leverage them to promote positive masculinities.
- Program design would benefit from considering alternative family structures, going beyond the assumption that individuals who are responsible for care are the heteronormative couple, as well as considering other family members who play a role in providing and creating an enabling environment for men’s caregiving.
- As interventions aiming to increased men’s caregiving evolve, positive and negative outcomes should be shared across networks to ensure women’s autonomy and collectively improve programmatic activities.
Challenges and opportunities that emerged in discussions include:
- In many contexts, the role of caregiving falls on women. To address women’s burden of care, governments should find ways to address issues of scarcity and high costs by subsidizing and/or establishing professional cadres to provide care work. Supporting caregiving educational opportunities could also help offset this burden.
- Gender norms that perpetuate and uphold harmful conceptions of masculinity continue to challenge progress in how men give care in their families and community. Identifying and encouraging contextually relevant positive gender norms may facilitate interest and pride in performing caregiving behaviors among men.
- Faith-based organizations and leaders have a unique position in communities to influence and shift social norms and instill values that support men’s active role in caregiving. New ways to engage and develop interventions through religious organizations may facilitate increased caregiving among men.
- Interventions and campaigns that exemplify the desired behaviors of men in the caregiving space can be supported across levels of society (community, regional, and national) with the goal of influencing policy.
As a result of the webinar, participants were better able to understand the research and work done in the field of engaging men in caregiving and learn about challenges and opportunities to integrate and advance this space in their own work.
Explore Additional Resources
Click on the links below to access the slides from the webinar and other related resources.