News / Asia

Q&A with Brian Heilman: Engaging Men and Boys on Gender Equality

FILE - Indian people march during a 'I Respect Women' walk for gender equality organized by a local hotel and Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India in New Delhi, India.
FILE - Indian people march during a 'I Respect Women' walk for gender equality organized by a local hotel and Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India in New Delhi, India.
Frances Alonzo

Recent cases of violence against women in Asia have been horrifying. "Boy" preference in pregnancy, or a father stoning his own daughter in an "honor-killing" in front of a court house in Lahore, Pakistan. In India, two young cousins hung from trees after being gang-raped; there was also the high-profile case of then-12 year old Malala Yousafzai being shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. The message is clear to women and girls: you are not safe; you are not valued; you don't matter.

But as local and international communities are more and more vocal about their outrage of the treatment of women and girls, the tide is turning. To truly see change, the root causes of violence must be challenged.

Brian Heilman, Gender and Evaluation Specialist at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) has authored a new report on his research that shows that gender norms and behaviors that lead to violence are developed when boys are young. He told Daybreak Asia's Frances Alonzo of the importance of engaging men and boys to advance gender equality and the success of school based programs to help boys and girls build gender-equitable, healthy, non-violent lifestyles at a pivotal time when attitudes and behaviors are still being developed.

Q&A with Brian Heilman: Engaging Men and Boys on Gender Equality
Q&A with Brian Heilman: Engaging Men and Boys on Gender Equalityi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

HEILMAN: One of the major findings that comes out of this study is that across countries, across socio-economic backgrounds, across different demographic characteristics, really it’s attitudes of male privilege and male sexual entitlement. Really attitudes of gender inequality that link most strongly with a man’s likelihood of perpetrating rape.

ALONZO:  Something I have just always wondered, is what makes it okay, in any culture, for men to mistreat women?

HEILMAN: The influences that lead a man, even lead a woman to feel that, that it’s acceptable or to feel that that’s a customary part of conflict resolution in the home or in the community. Those influences start very early in children’s lives. If you grow up watching your parents use violence or watching your father or a man use violence against your mother to solve some kind of conflict or to maintain rules of the household or whatever, you come to learn pretty naturally that that is a common part of family life. That’s a common part of relationships and it’s passed on from generation to generation. And our findings really support that. So, I think that’s part of why ICRW and a lot of different organizations try to promote some critical conversations where boys and girls can have a different sort of message around them. I think it doesn’t necessarily work to approach someone who has a high status in his community and feels very entrenched in his way of life and beliefs to very directly challenge that. To tell him that he’s wrong. To tell him that some other cultural notion is superior to his cultural notion. That’s certainly a much, much more challenging prospect than starting at very early ages.

ALONZO:  So are you just writing off the adults, and say “you know what, we can’t change their minds,” is that what you are saying?

HEILMAN:  Not exactly, no. It’s a challenging prospect and the field is really starting to take seriously the challenge of preventing this violence before it ever happens. I don’t think that’s tantamount to writing off adults in any case.

ALONZO:  Are men more receptive to hearing about changing their behavior from men, or from women? Does the messenger matter? 

HEILMAN: I think the messenger probably matters a little bit at least early on in the conversation. In some of our research in the school settings especially we’ve shown how influential it can be for the person delivering the message to young men or young women to really be sort of in a peer or a role model role. So maybe someone who is just three to four years older than them, someone who is kind of cool  and who they would aspire to be like as they grow up. That function in these school settings where we are having critical conversations about gender has proven to be pretty influential.

ALONZO:  Once you put all these programs in place, is there a timeframe where you begin to see change?

HEILMAN: We found that it is very possible and very effective to build critical conversations about relations between men and women about the acceptability of violence into a secondary school or even a primary school curriculum in a way that really resonates with young boys and girls and that shows demonstrable changes in their feelings and attitudes and behaviors after participating in the program even after a very short intervention of one academic year. We saw significant changes in these attitudes.

In India, we are very excited about a program called the Gender Equity Movement in Schools, or GEMS, which was first implemented in 30 schools in Mumbai, and showed significant changes in participating students attitudes related to their acceptability of violence and about how boys and girls should really be treated equal. And we’re thrilled that the state government of Majarashtra has been excited about these changes and are now implementing that program across the entire state curriculum. This is the scale of India, so that’s reaching 25,000 public schools across Majarashtra. Now to your question of the timeline, we’re believing that these boys and girls, they’ll grow up to have much more equitable relationships and really bring their children up in a world where the prevalence of violence would be much lower.

The scope of the problem is huge enough where it’s going take, maybe, our grandkids. We, as an international community, cannot yet really stand up with our heads held high and tell the women of the world that we’re doing everything we can to stop this violence. There’s a lot more that needs to be done.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs