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UN ‘barbershop’ conference aims to dispel stereotypes, promote gender equality
an article by UN News Centre (abridged)

Looking to promote change in how men and boys think and talk about women’s empowerment and gender equality, the United Nations is hosting at its New York Headquarters a two-day high-level “Barbershop” event, which this afternoon [15 January] focused on initiatives that aim to support non-sexist male attitudes and behaviours between men.

The Barbershop Conference. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

click on photo to enlarge

The Barbershop Conference aimed at reflecting the casual setting in which men get their hair cut, while delving deeper into gender stereotypes perpetuated by social norms, and helping dispel the fallacy that women and girls cannot be equals in the economic, social or political life.

The event also highlighted that while historically women and girls have led the fight against gender inequality, discrimination and gender-based violence, the recent UN HeforShe initiative encourages men and boys to stand at forefront of the global discourse.

“Today’s Conference is a creative way of moving the dialogue into uncharted territory,” said Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly, who was joined at the event by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Executive-Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, several UN Ambassadors, Ministers, civil society representatives, journalists, and activists, as well as entertainers.

“Increasingly, the world has come to recognize that achieving gender equality will require the active participation of all segments of society and that men and boys have a critical role to play,” said Mr. Kutesa, noting that he was happy to add his voice to the Barbershop initiative and also make the empowerment of women and girls a key priority of his General Assembly session.

Among other things, the initiative aims to supports non- discriminatory and non-sexist male attitudes between men, commit to discussing the role of men in realizing gender equality within the UN, and further engage men to end violence against women and girls.

“This must be the biggest barbershop conversation ever,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said, emphasizing that today’s discourse came at an opportune time to “jolt our thinking” as the world prepares to marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women, held in 1995. . .

Closing the first day of the conference, the head of UN Women, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, said today’s Barbershop is about breaking social norms that oppress women and restrict men and boys. And the HeforShe campaign is about both men and women getting outside of their comfort zone.

“It is not enough to be a good boy and a good man in a bad system. Our challenge is to change the system because a bad system will always bring a good man down,” she said.

“We’re in this for the long-haul.” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said, underscoring that the post 2015-framework must create a world that will be totally different by 2030. “We are asking you to stand up and speak out so that you can create more Barbershop conversations of this nature.”


Question(s) related to this article:

What role should men play to stop violence against women?,

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No More Steubenvilles: How To Raise Boys to be Kind Men

What can we do to help young men respect women, recognize consent, and have healthy sexual relationships? Teach them kindness to others—and the courage to go against the crowd.

by Kim Simon
posted Mar 18, 2013

When Max was just a few months old, I sat cross-legged on the floor with him in a circle of other mothers.  The facilitator for our “Mommy and Me” playgroup would throw a question out to the group, and we would each volley back an answer.

“What quality do you want to instill in your child?  What personality characteristic would you most like for your son to be known for?” she asked.

One by one, the mothers answered.  “Athletic”, “Good sense of humor”, “Brave”, “Smart”, “Strong”.

The answers blended together until it was my turn to speak.  I looked down at the tiny human wiggling around on the blanket in front of me, his perfectly round nose, his full lips that mirrored mine.  I stroked the top of his very bald head, and said with confidence: “kind”.

I want my son to grow up to be kind.

The eyes of the other mothers turned toward me.  “That’s not always a word that you hear used for boys” one said.  “But yes, you’re right … so I guess, me too”.  At the end of the day, we wanted our tiny, fragile, helpless baby boys to grow up to be kind. . ...more.

This report was posted on January 26, 2015.