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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid