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Working masculinities in Palestine

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

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Changing the way we see the world, and especially how we assume stereotypes and gender roles, is a complex issue, requires constancy and looking from the perspective of new glasses. Without questioning these roles it is difficult to deconstruct the deep roots of gender inequality and sexist violence. For this reason, Alliance for Solidarity has been working for years from an innovative gender approach that surpasses the view of women as victims, from a local and integral point of view, and that includes working with men from the perception of new masculinities.

But what are new masculinities?

For centuries an idea of hegemonic masculinity has been built: the idea of a strong, heterosexual and protective white man, a supplier of an upper middle class, and always a step above women. But this traditional masculinity, coupled with the patriarchal vision prevailing in almost every society in the world has several problems: it does not conform to different realities, leads to insane gender identities and is an obstacle to the development of equality and is an obstacle to the development of equality and end violence against women. In addition the existence of this type of masculinity implies for many women a feeling of inferiority from very early stages, which is solidified through social norms and stereotypes drastically perpetuating and limiting the exercise of their rights.

It is precisely to publicize women's rights or the different roles men have as agents of change on the path of equality is a strategy to be expanded. Achieving this is essential for advances in the protection and prevention of gender-based violence. Numerous studies suggest that understanding and recognizing the different roles of men in the various forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, can help to stop the cycle of violence by becoming agents of change and allies for achieve real equality.

Why is it important to work on new masculinities in Palestine?

On many occasions, the humanitarian situation and cultural, social and political resistance have failed to move in the right direction, and in the case of Palestine, the conflict amplifies situations of violence suffered by women. Despite the lack of current official statistics, the number of women killed under the pretext of "family honour" has increased significantly in recent years. The last palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) survey in 2011 violence in Palestinian society shows an increase in all types of violence: for example 37% of married women have been exposed to some form of violence at the hands of their partners, the percentage being even more worrying in the Gaza Strip where it reaches 51.1%.

»» More on violence against women in the Gaza Strip click here

To eradicate this scourge, we work from the approach of new masculinities by carrying out actions that address the problem of violence inherent within societies, focused on men of all ages, with and without disabilities. A study by Promundo and UN Women on the perception of masculinity and gender roles in Palestine in 2017 confirmed attitudes of inequality towards the role of women: 80% of men and 60% of women consider women to be the most important task is to take care of their home and family. However, there were also signs of a more egalitarian vision: less than 20% of men and women considered it "embarrassing" for a man to care for his children or perform housework. One of the most interesting discoveries is that several of the men interviewed for the study who had been in prison for political reasons, underscored the "extraordinary skills" of women to take on all the responsibilities of getting ahead while they had been in prison.

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How do we do it?

The Solidarity Alliance's gender strategy includes the approach of working on new masculinities. To this end, a specific manual has been developed to work with organizations and our target audience in Palestine. As part of this strategy, workshops and training days have been developed in Gaza and Ramallah aimed mainly at men, in which more than 60% of participants have acquired not only knowledge of equality, but have learned to understand the importance of deconturining masculinity. These workshops are the seed that gives way to a process during which established thoughts and attitudes are deconstructed, and that contributes, after much work, to generate a real change in behavior.

To achieve this we work in 3 levels: First we hold training workshops for our members, once we have trained staff this teaches the workshops to the target audience. This allows participants to become multipliers and in turn disseminate the acquired knowledge.

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After the training, we conducted an evaluation in which the people who participated, and especially the men, expressed that after training they were able to better manage their anger, had more information and better understood the different forms of violence, and they had more skills to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent way. Overall, they felt that the workshops had brought them positive changes in their views and attitudes towards women.

Similarly, men themselves recommended training with young men, especially before they married to reduce violence against women, as older men's attitudes are harder to change than those of young men. So we got to work, and our partner the Palestinian Advisory Center (PCC) organized a joint journey between young couples with the aim of improving their communication. Throughout the journey, they participated in activities and challenges to promote cooperation between men and women, and to better understand and empathize with the needs and desires of others. The trip helped them, both to learn, and to unlearn things from each other: men are now much more aware of the difficult roles that their partners play in all areas, public and private.

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