Gender Equality Benefits Boys Too

Plan report says boys, men are hurt by gender inequality, are key to change and would benefit from a more gender-equitable world

CANADA, Sept. 22, 2011 /CNW/ - While it's generally known that there are numerous reasons to close the inequality gap between girls and boys, perhaps one of the most important is the least obvious: because it's good for boys and men, too.  A major global report released today from Plan International, one of the world's oldest and largest international development agencies, highlights both the essential role and potential benefits for boys and men in creating a gender-equitable world. 

The Plan report - Because I am a Girl: So What About Boys? - makes it clear that in spite of the privileges associated with being  boys and men, they also stand to lose from unequal power relationships that arise from traditional notions of masculinity.  The report illustrates how stereotypical views and rigid gender roles can rob both girls and boys of the opportunity to fully realize their potential. From escaping individual and family poverty to reducing violence, the Plan report shows how everyone can benefit from turning the aspiration of gender equality into reality. To make that possible, Plan is calling for a shift in thinking away from boys and men as being part of the problem to boys and men as part of the solution.

"Although men still dominate most of the levels of power in almost all societies, we have found that they are also set back by gender stereotypes and inequalities that are taught to them at a young age and perpetuated into their adulthood," says Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. "That's why we need to find ways to engage boys and men in redefining traditional male roles so that they become supporters and active proponents of gender equality."

The prevalence of gender inequality is evident in many developing and developed countries around the world, though it exists in varying degrees across these landscapes. To illustrate this, McCarney points to key findings in the annual report as well as those from a recent Canadian survey commissioned by Plan Canada.

  • One third of Canadian boys (31 per cent) believe that a woman's most important role is to take care of her home and cook for the family. In the U.K., 15 per cent of young boys think the same, while in India it's 73 per cent and Rwanda it's 68 per cent.
  • Although 78 per cent of Canadian youth disagree with the statement "boys should not cry", 77 per cent of Canadian youth believe boys are more likely to be made fun of if they cry.
  • Forty-five per cent of Canadian youth agree that "to be a man you need to be tough," while 13 per cent of youth in the U.K. and 26 per cent of youth in Rwanda think the same.
  • Sixty per cent of Canadian youth think gender should not determine whether someone does or does not receive employment at schools, in government or in top companies.  However, 31 per cent of youth in India and 69 per cent of youth in Rwanda believe when women work they are taking jobs away from men.
  • Forty-five per cent of Canadian youth say it wouldn't matter if they had more sons or more daughters and 17 per cent say they would like to have the same number of boys and girls. In India and Rwanda, boys and girls would prefer to have more sons than daughters.


Fathers make good mothers
The report indicates the father's role is crucial to greater gender equality for both girls and boys. How a father treats his wife and daughters can limit or enhance their potential and choices in life, but it will also make a difference to his sons and influence how they grow up and treat their own families. Plan's research also shows that men who are positively engaged in the lives of their children or step-children are less likely to be depressed, commit suicide or be violent and that boys who grow up around positive male role models are more likely to question gender inequities and harmful stereotypes.

The burden of manhood
Poverty places a heavy burden on many fathers, husbands and sons, because in most societies as heads of the household men are expected to be the principal providers in their families. Although, empowering girls is a key to unlocking families from poverty and deprivation, Plan recognizes that improving gender equality also challenges the perceptions many men have of the world and even their sense of self. For many men, improving gender equality goes against hundreds of years of tradition and strong beliefs about what a man should be that still predominate in many countries and religions.

"It's very important that support systems are in place to help young boys and men deal with the negative consequences they could face by going against traditional gender roles or stereotypes which continue to determine what it means to be a man," adds McCarney.

A roadmap for change
While family life and upbringing are major factors, the report also suggests what we learn, think and practice about gender roles and relations is influenced by various factors, especially law, social policy and, very importantly, education. It's proven that men who have completed secondary education are less likely to use violence against women; more likely to be present during childbirth; to be involved in childcare; and hold more gender-equitable attitudes.

"Our experience and our research in the developing world clearly shows that addressing gender inequality is a critical first step towards eliminating poverty," says McCarney. "What's more, it's also clear that every nation can benefit by strengthening its commitment to treating boys and girls equally."

To view the full report visit: http://becauseiamagirl.ca/2011GirlReport

About Plan and the 'Because I am a Girl' Initiative
Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world's oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Because I am a Girl is Plan's global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls - and everyone around them - out of poverty. Visit www.plancanada.ca and www.becauseiamagirl.ca for more information.

SOURCE Plan Canada

For further information:

For media inquiries, contact:

Abigail Brown, Media and Public Relations Manager, Plan Canada
T: 416 920 1654 ext 277  |  C: 647 971 3764  |  abrown@plancanada.ca  

Kristy Payne, Director of Strategic Communications, Plan Canada
T: 416 920 1654 ext 211  |  C: 416 568 6525  |  kpayne@plancanada.ca  

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