Engage Men in Sexual & Reproductive Rights & Health #genderlens #menreprorights

Gender Continuum Chart

Six Steps to Designing Programs with a Gender Lens when Engaging Men in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Click here for the handbook referred to in this article

Much of the guidance and tools in this publication are organized around six basic steps:

  1. Understanding gender and gender programming: a precursor to engaging men in SRHR
  2. Building support for male engagement in SRHR
  3. Assessing the needs for male engagement in SRHR programmes
  4. Creating objectives and designing the programme
  5. Building staff and organizational capacity
  6. Monitoring and evaluating the programme

Users will be able to access tools and programmatic guidance for designing and implementing a programme following a step-by-step process.

Like the “Getting to Outcomes” steps, these six steps can be utilized at different stages of programme design and implementation, including if a programme is already underway. The user of this guide can go back to revisit earlier steps when needed and can choose to use specific steps but not others. Also, it must be noted that many organizations or programmes may face constraints and realities which could/can prevent the possibility of following each step in exact order. For example, some organizations may need to develop proposals or requests for funding (which would include developing objectives) before they are able to conduct a full assessment. However, these projects can still include an assessment phase, which can be conducted after the project is approved. Even if certain/specific conditions/situations call for a different course of action than the lineal steps outlined above, the guidance and tools can still be used or can still be helpful.

Adolescent and Young Men

Though this guide refers to men throughout, the usage is meant to include adolescent and young men. That said, we do not go into depth regarding youth strategies or issues. It is important that we recognize the unique needs and issues which youth face in terms of contraceptive access and use and SRHR.

Providers need to take a holistic approach to youth’s SRHR needs, which include comprehensive sexuality education which reflects on gender norms and power. Furthermore, young people’s access to services from an early age, such as family planning and contraceptives, can prepare them for their present and future needs. Many adolescent and young couples may already be in romantic and sexual relationships in which condoms for triple protection (against pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs) and other modern methods of contraception need to be explored. In some contexts, a sizeable number of men and women may be married or in cohabitating relationships by their late teens and early 20s. Programmes which seek to involve young men will need to acknowledge this reality while giving consideration to legal issues around consent, how to organize services to be most accessible to youth, how to tailor activities and education to this age-group and how to include such programming in schools and/or other community forums to reach out-of-school youth. Lastly, comprehensive sexuality education which centres on human rights, gender and power dynamics is crucial regardless of whether adolescents are currently sexually active. By informing them about sexual and reproductive health and rights at an early age, programmers create a valuable opportunity to reach a generation of future adults. The UNFPA Operational Guidance on Comprehensive Sexuality Education provides useful guidance with regard to this issue.

Action Steps for Engaging Men as Partners in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights using a Gender Lens

This guidance and tools are organized around six basic steps:

  1. Understanding gender and gender programming: a precursor to engaging men in SRHR
  2. Building support for male engagement in SRHR
  3. Assessing the needs for male engagement in SRHR programmes
  4. Creating objectives and designing the programme
  5. Building staff and organizational capacity
  6. Monitoring and evaluating the programme

The following tools and programmatic guidance for designing and implementing a programme are organized within these steps. The steps themselves are not meant to be exhaustive but are a means of organizing tools and approaches along some of the major steps in designing and implementing programming. Each step provides links to resources and tools which go into greater depth regarding engagement of men in SRHR, using a gender lens.

A) Understanding gender and gender programming: a precursor to engaging men in SRHR

This next section will look at gender and gender programming with the understanding it is not possible to design good programming with men in SRHR without understanding gender and gender programming. This next section goes over basic concepts which every programmer should understand fully before designing programming to engage men in SRHR (or when developing any SRHR programming for that matter).

1. Key Gender Concepts

Given the impact of gender on SRHR, this section presents key concepts regarding gender and programming around gender. Though the issues discussed below may not relate specifically to SRHR, keep in mind that to be able to understand gender, we need to think of it holistically. Once there is an understanding of gender—the origin of the concept and how it is reproduced, as well as how it impacts behaviours—one can then think about how it applies to SRHR.

What Is Gender?
Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female. Gender can refer to expectations which exist in a society or community around what it means to be a man or a woman.

Though the definition above is comprehensive, definitions are often not sufficient by themselves to explain a concept. The following interactive activity will help to further explain the concept of gender by engaging you in reflecting on this in greater detail.

Learning about Gender

After having completed the Learning about Gender activity, you should have a good grasp of the difference between sex and gender.

Another key concept is that of “gender norms”. Gender norms refer to the societal messages (or rules) which dictate appropriate or expected behaviour for males and females. Gender norms (or the social rules about what men and women are expected to do) help to shape behaviour and therefore relate directly to many health behaviours. This next interactive activity will help further explain gender norms for men and women and how they relate to health and family planning.

Act like a Man, Act like a Woman

The preceding interactive activities help to explain what gender is and how it is constructed, as well as expectations regarding how men and women should behave and think. The group workshop versions of both Learning about Gender and Act like a Man, Act like a Woman are included in the resource list and can be used in leading group reflections about gender norms and their impact.

The following are some main points to remember regarding gender:

  • Socially constructed — Gender is not biological or natural but is constructed from the images, messages and expectations we see around us. These include the messages which we may give to those around us.
  • Contextual/time-specific — Expectations about what it means to be a man or woman can vary over time and depend on context. There may be regional or national differences in how gender is expressed; more important, there are many different contexts within any one country. Over time, we can see that gender norms (expectations about male and female roles) have changed, especially in terms of expectations about the role of women, which have occurred largely as a result of the efforts of the women’s rights movement. Even at an individual level, we can see that the values and attitudes which we publicly express can vary depending on the setting we are in: We may express either more equitable views or less equitable views than we truly hold, depending on the setting (among friends, co-workers, or family, among people of the same sex or the opposite sex, etc.).
  • Changeable — Expectations about male and female roles can and do change, and we can promote that change.
  • Dominant or hegemonic masculinity/femininity —There is often a dominant version of what it means to be a man (sometimes referred to as hegemonic masculinity or dominant masculinity) and a dominant version of what it means to be a woman (sometimes referred to as hegemonic femininity or enhanced femininity). The dominant version guides and also limits our expression of ourselves as men or women. That dominant version is not a “script” which everyone follows, but it represents an expectation or set of expectations which we cannot avoid confronting. Societies conforming strongly to dominant gender identities may alienate many people who express other gender identities, including caring and nurturing roles among men and decision-making among women. Each individual plays a direct role either in deconstructing or challenging these norms or in supporting and perpetuating them. Still, gender theorists often refer to various masculinities, femininities or gender identities to highlight the many expressions of gender and to deconstruct what is often referred to as a gender binary.

The main message is that if gender norms are something individuals participate in constructing, then they are also something that can be changed. In other words, more equitable attitudes can actively be promoted.

Finally, it is important to recognize that other factors interact with and frame gender in each individual’s life; these, which may include age, race, poverty, ability, class and sexual orientation, should not be excluded from any analysis of gender. Programmers need to think of how these factors interact in their context, as inequalities around age, race, poverty, class and sexual orientation can be just as relevant as inequality based on gender.

What Is Sexuality?
Sexuality is related to but distinct from “sex” (referring to biological differences determined by genitalia) and “gender” (referring to the sociocultural construct of personality traits associated with being male or female). Sexuality is “…a central aspect of being human throughout life [which] encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” “Explicit and implicit rules imposed by society, as defined by one’s gender, age, economic status, ethnicity and other factors, influence an individual’s sexuality.”

Some key concepts in regards to sexuality:

  • Gender expression refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviours which are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. This social definition of whether something is masculine and feminine and how that is valued is defined by gender norms.
  • Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different sex or the same sex or more than one sex. Someone who is attracted to people of the same sex as their own may identify as gay or lesbian, while someone who is attracted to the opposite sex may identify as straight, and someone who is attracted to both sexes may identify as bisexual, but there are many other ways of identifying one’s sexual orientation.
  • Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. For example, people who identify with their sex assigned at birth are known as cisgender, and people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth are known as transgender.

For more information, please see the following resources:

2. Key Gender Programming Concepts

Gender Continuum for Programming

Now we will look at some basic concepts around how to address gender within health programming. One tool for doing this is known as the Gender Continuum.

Since 2000, the gender continuum has been used as a framework to assess how health programmes address gender. This tool has been invaluable in helping practitioners assess how their programmes can better incorporate gender to achieve greater impact. Understanding this continuum will help illustrate how to bring men into SRHR services in constructive and positive ways. The following image demonstrates the continuum.

Gender Continuum Chart
Source: Adapted from Geeta Rao Gupta. 2000. Gender, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS: The what, the why, and the how. SIECUS Report Vol. 25, No. 5, 2001.

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