What kind of engagement are we looking for and how do we achieve it?

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What kind of engagement are we looking for and how do we achieve it?
  • What kind of support do women peacemakers need from men? What do they not need?
  • What kind of support do male allies need from women peacemakers? What do they not need?
  • What does this engagement look like? What is the vision? Share your stories and ideas.
  • What are the systems and institutions that must be considered and engaged in addition to individuals? How do these systems impact gender-sensitive peacebuilding?
As a women peacemaker, the

As a women peacemaker, the support I need from men is  " a behavior as a men gender sensitive", it means, men who do not think, speak, behave and act  as a man transformed, a man who is still tied by culture, a man who take decisions without women,is still not better to be an allie. The support women peacemakers  need is  in 2 steps: Attention and actions together with women for the social change.

The support allies need from women peacemakers is comprehension, confident and collaboration.

For example, in Burundi,it was not easy for the first time to work together women and men for peacebuilding: women asked themselves "why men in women issues", and men think "how other men will threat us, surely as bad men?", At the end when they've find that no change could not be if  there are not common actions, a few number of men were involved to take actions together, today it is like a movement which still need a critical mass.



What does support in peacebuilding look like?


The support women peacemakers  need is  in 2 steps: Attention and actions together with women for the social change.

The support allies need from women peacemakers is comprehension, confident and collaboration.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Seconde, on what women and men need from each other to accomplish successful, gender-sensitive peacebuilding!  It's so great to have you in this dialogue.  Can you tell us more about your experience working with men as allies in peacebuilding in Burundi?  Did you experience the attention and action to support your work?  What did that look like?  What kind of attention and action?

Likewise, what did/does it mean for you to offer comprehension, confidence and collaboration?  How have you supported your male allies in this way?  What did it look like?  Please tell us your stories! 

Women suggest and men decide.

Thank you Antin and sorry for my English, I'm a French speaker.

I'm working with women organisation since 1991. We initiated many actions in women rights area, but  at the end, I'm find that the impact is not very good, because women take suggestions and men take decisions. Even if women do advocacy and use differents tools to have impact, it is not the same if women involve men in since planification to evaluation.

My experience to work with men began after WPP ToT, when I feel that I have to involve men (parliaments, SCO) in UNRC 1325 workshop in order to make them aware to validate that precious document. After this workshop, I've seen that there are men who are really gender sensitive and need the social change, who continue to ask for next steps. Christian NGENDAHIMANA is one of them who decide to fight on the side of women rights.  Through our organisation Fountain ISOKO, we began with regular workshops and trainings on Women rights, UNSR 1325,1820, women participation,.... and especially the situation in Burundi, in order to sensitize them that we will never to arrive to development if women are left beside (absent in negociation, in politics, ...).  This is my support and this is also the attention we need (to be aware) and I said, together for transformation. We do not only need that awareness, we want also actions, activities, impacts.  Now, we are working more with young (the decisions makers in the future) as I told you in Universities and schools.

The comprehension we need is not paternism, we need men who understand that women rights are men rights, that the change is not for women matter only, we need collaboration for a common target.  

Before, it was seems that men and boys were not really free to speak on that topics, they seemed ashamed because of burundian, african culture, but with time, with success stories, please,  men (with women) are influencing other men for the change.                      It is a success story for me to work with men as allies. Christian can tell more about this collaboration, he is awares, involved and he take actions through   BOYS AND MEN ISOKO NETWORK for GBV.

I'm still available for any more informations and comments.




What does support in the peacebuilding look like?

Good to hear from you Kristin about Seconde's comments!

You can't give what you never got!!! Peacebuilding is a proces, an interested one! While involved, ones needs more attention and respect and those who are working with us are  to be respected and need attention!!! These are key pillars for the peacebuilding. In fact, those who are working with us in the peacebuilding process contribute a lot in our learning process but we must  listen to them and to give them more attention and respect as I said. This is an other aspect of the support.

We have to support those who are closely working with us as we need their support. My ally Seconde Nyanzbe shared her experience in working with me and told you what she needs!!! This is also what I need and I experienced these aspects while working with her since 2005. I learned more from her and at the begining, It wasn't so easy because I had to listen to her and sometimes I didn't listened as I have  to do. Gradually, we built an improved relationship regarding our commitment to work closely as actors of a better future for our sisters and brothers in our Country.

The relationship between time and one's effort have been crucial regarding our relationship in the Peacebuilding process! Women and Men who are committed to work as collegues and allies must take the following aspects into a consideration;

  1. Women need respect: If they are respected, they are rich of experiences and lessons to share.
  2. Men need respect : the sociialization process is made by different elements that justify this attitude. Human beeing including men can't change in a minute but once changed, they make difference with a large impact.
  3. Women and Men need to take action because it is for their interest and both of them need support from each other!

Support in the peacebuilding implies: Respect, Communication, Attention, Time and Efforts!!!

What do you think aout this dear Kristin, what is your experience???

My experiences to work with men as allies.

Hi Kristin,

I come back again to you to tell more about my experiences to work with men as allies.

Every man is sensitive to women issues. However, according their masculinity education, they have to behave as "real men" without thinking to the consequences of that. So, if they have an opportunity to be aware about this consequences,(like the WPP/IFOR training, they change in their behaviour); This is one of the experience I can share with you: before the ToT, I worked with men as colleagues, partner; women issues were for women. After the ToT,  I've seen a man (I talk about Christian NGENDAHIMANA who I can see many times) who has completely change, he sensitized other men in different way:

- asking for emissions, sketches, in different radio to tell about peacebuilding,

- proposing a production of a documentary to prevent youth manipulation by men in politics during the elections process in Burundi (this was to prevent conflict to women ) and this was done by his organisation Fountain ISOKO

- initiating clubs in Universities to sensitize and to take aware other young boys: this is done and young boys meet regularly to exchange on what kind of engangement they could take, and actions plans are made with our collaboration( in this, main tool to use to attend many people is " video projection" on public places like markets and  churches)

- networking with others organisation on gender-sensitive peacebuilging : it was seen during elections process when around 250 young boys and girls supervise elections as volunteers in different areas. Here just after elections, they did report and sat together and discussed what was going well and bad, and what must be their behavior if there are some responsible of politics parties who refused the results.

All those actions have make a positive impact because today, our organisation is like an interest center:

1.many people ask for being Fountain ISOKO member

2. Media asking us to participate in many emissions regarding peacebuilding, VBG,...

3. Many organizations ask for a peacebuilding trainings from Fountain ISOKO

To work with men as allies look very confortable, it means for me for example, I feel understood and strengthed in what I do. And, it is easy for advocacy and lobbying (because it is easy to have an authority appointment when we are together a man and a woman).

I'm convinced that to have men as allies would change positively the world.


Female supporting men allies and

Member of Fountain ISOKO for Good Governance and Integrated development


Moving from Training to Taking Action Together

I used the link from Steve's post in another section of this dialogue to connect with the Men's Resources International website. I saw his post on his own organization's website about the second WPP training that took place in the Philippines. Please note that I've taken the liberty to highlight these points below. 

"In the intervening six months, the men used the strategies and skills from the first training in their home contexts to develop ally relationships with women and conduct trainings in their communities. Trainings on gender-sensitive active non-violence were conducted for:

  • youth leaders in Kenya, Nicaragua and the Philippines
  • peace activists in Ghana and Liberia
  • religious leaders in Fiji
  • journalists in Nepal
  • traditional leaders in Pakistan
  • As well as organizations formed - 1) The Congo Men's Resource Centre was formed (with technical assistance from the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre), and 2) the Centre on Research and Training on field of Gender and Development in Burundi."

I am really interested to learn more from those participating in this dialogue who took part in the WPP training and then moved forward to organize these specific trainings in your own countries to share with us your efforts about your further progess in moving efforts forward in your own communities. Please tell us about these experiences if you are able to share more about them at this point in time.

A very "real" dialogue

I just wanted to share a very moving experience from a training we facilitated on Gender and Peacebuilding in Lebanon last year. It was the last day of the training and the women and men had met as two separate groups each with a facilitator of the same gender and they collected their ideas on what types of positive femininities and masculinities they could construct moving forward. When we came back as a large group, it organically became a dialogue between the women and men around what they needed from each other. I think it was the most powerful moment of the training because it became a call for partnership and what that would mean and the participants were able to articulate that to each other in their own terms.

Although I cannot accurately reflect their words and moreso the feeling behind it driving it forward both as each individual's stories that had been shared throughout the training and were now culminating in this request/demand and as charged between the two groups, I can summarize that the women called for respect, support, freedom, etc. and the men requested for women to also advance a positive masculinity rather than reinforce as often happens the very masculinity that was preventing them from having the space for that respect, support, and freedom and that also ultimately denied this to the men it privileged.

It was a lot of things wrapped together, it was positive but also very hard and assertive, it was a plea from individuals who had suffered greatly from the impact of gender relations in their lives, very much still raw since for some it had been the first time they had spoken about experiences of violence or restriction, it was an expectation and it was a call to action. I felt very honored to have experienced this.

I think these honest face-to-face dialogues are very important, not just always between women and men since I know that we do not want to reinforce tying them to femininity and masculinity, but in places where these groups feel very confined within these concepts of being a woman and a man, it is extremely powerful at the right moment, which they often set, to have them talk directly to each other and helps to show the reciprocal relationships between the two, both in perpetuating the current status quo and in moving forward in a partnership for change.  

Cross-gender dialogue

Thank you, olivia, for sharing this beautiful description. At MRI we've been calling this process "cross-gender dialogue," and have found it a consistently moving experience to support women and men in learning how to listen with compassion, share their gendered stories, and ask each other challenging questions in a context of care, curiousity and respect. Even in workshops with all male participants, we believe it is important to find ways to learn and practice the skills of cross-gender dialogue. For example, at the recent WPP training we pursued this by

  1. having a male/female co-training team
  2. asking the men to interview women from their communities before the training
  3. engaging in role play and psychodrama during the training where they imagined the voices of the women in their lives
  4. inviting local women activists to a cross-gender dialogue session with the training participants.
Thanks for sharing

Dear Olivia,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. It reminded of two sessions we had on cross gender dialogue during the IFOR/WPP trainings on ‘Ending Violence, Exploring Masculinities, Violence and Peace’ in the Netherlands and in the Philippines in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The valuable lesson we learned then was that bringing men and women to face each other and dialogue; sharing their experiences, feelings and expectations is one of the most effective strategies in building cross gender alliances for gender equality.


I wanted to share my experience in conducting trainings for combatants and peace builders. There is international consensus on the importance of engaging men in gender - sensitive peace building. But, when discussed during different trainings, this question appeared to be quite sensitive. I often noticed men’s resistance and not willingness to co-operate. In my mind, the problem of this resistance often is the fact that men are treated solely as perpetrators and offenders, but women are treated solely as survivors and victims.

Such approach is not facilitating any co-operation and gender-sensitive peace building. Women are not vulnerable as such. On the contrary, they often show remarkable strength, especially in post conflict situations (e.g. men seeking income elsewhere while women and children stay behind in very dangerous environments where they increasingly head households and perform community leadership roles). Women are vulnerable in certain circumstances owing to their physical characteristics and specific needs, such as those of pregnant women, maternity cases or mothers of young children. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),  men are also vulnerable to the violence of armed conflicts. In some contexts, up to 96 per cent of detainees and 90 per cent of missing persons are men. Men are also particularly likely to be wounded or killed a s legitimate targets, since armed forces and armed groups mainly recruit males. Focus on women as particularly vulnerable group and man as perpetrators do not help for gender sensitive peace building. Women - peacemakers need that man acknowledge their needs and their efforts. Women need to be involved in decision making process concerning their special needs and seen as partners, not just as victims.

In the same time, there should be a shift of the focus from approaching men as problems that need to be addressed and obstacles to gender equality to a positive development approach that acknowledges that men, like women, have their own needs and are complex individuals, that they do care about what happens to their partners and their families and in their communities, and that they are a fundamental part of the solution.

The focus should be on co-operation, partnership between men and women to challenge the root causes of human rights violations and hegemonic forms of masculinity.

Vineta Polatside

exercises on positive involvement?

Hi Vineta

Thanks, yet I absolutely agree with your analysis. I was wondering if you have some specific/ concrete examples from your work with combatants in terms of addressing men's resistance? How do you incorporate this positive approach, which acknowledges the complexities of women and men, into your work? Do you have specific exercises you could share?  

Best wishes Jose

Whats there for young boys to be allies?

Primarily what I am going to share is our experience of engaging young boys/ men in adressing violence in generic and GBV in specific. We have just complted a series of training sessions with a group of 100 boys in a semi urban area. Some of the  questions young boys used to ask have been like they love thrill in their life, their real issues revolve around the economic pressures they face in their families, while the structural influncers are so strong that they most of the time feel themselves helpless, and here comes the start of their story, since fruit of this engagement form them are not immediate---but they want some thing concrete in a short period---.

so one aspect is to expand this engagement beyond training, as we know training can be one of the means and a contributing factor but we need a more holistic approach with considerable attention be given to the interests of young boys.

In terms of training that mostly our experience been I feel focussing on self and individual responsibility and then providing enough opportunity to creating linkages with larger structural issues have been successful approach while working with boys and men. 


Engaging the youth as a tactic

Thank you, Babar, for sharing your thoughts on working with young men in Pakistan. 

babar wrote:

so one aspect is to expand this engagement beyond training, as we know training can be one of the means and a contributing factor but we need a more holistic approach with considerable attention be given to the interests of young boys.

Reading your comment, I couldn't help but think about a past dialogue we hosted on Engaging youth in non-violent alternatives to militarism.  Yes, the topics are different, but I think there are some useful similarities to be drawn.  I think that the reason you are working with youth is the same reason that the participants of this past dialogue on militarism engaged youth - to work to change the system by creating a new future for the youth.  Often, youth are swept up into these systems - whether it be militarism or gender-based violence - because they think that is just the way it is.  They don't see any other option.  It is our job to show these youth that there are other options! 

Here are a few of the tactics that were discussed in the dialogue on Engaging Youth (taken from the dialogue summary):

  • Sports can be a great way to bring youth together.  In some areas, youth are brainwashed by militaristic groups or kidnapped, especially in areas where unemployment is high.  In these areas, it can be difficult to reach out to youth and teach them about nonviolent ways of living, and utilizing the popularity and teamwork of sports can be a great first step to reaching out to youth.  Sports also have a positive effect on participants’ psychological health and can help to reduce aggressive behavior.  However, while sports can keep youth busy and off the streets, they can sometimes encourage aggressive behavior and are also used in militant settings to increase competitiveness.
  • Educating youth about topics such as human rights, governance, and conflict issues can also help them make the choice to avoid militarism.   A part of educating youth is pointing out the “tricks” that the military employs and detail examples of fraud within the military. Because those in uniform are thought to be trustworthy and honorable, pointing out fraud is necessary to counter this often false image of trust and respect.
  • Another great way to learn how to prevent youth from engaging in militarism is by listening those who have succeeded in resisting militarization themselves, despite being under great pressure.  It is especially important to hear from those conscientious objectors to militarism who have actually participated in the military, or in other words, involve veterans in youth outreach efforts.
  • It is also important to incorporate parents in anti-militarism efforts, although these results will only be seen in the long-term.
  • Youth are heavily influenced by celebrity figures such as musicians and actors, therefore getting these role models involved in the anit-militarism movement could prove to be an invaluable tactic.  However, Celebrity culture can also be detrimental to the cause, since in modern times in preaches sex and violence more than peace and love.  The 1960s-70s are great example of music promoting peace.

Babar and others - are these tactics transferable to engaging young men in gender-sensitive peacebuilding?  Are these tactics already being used?  Can you share some examples?  Is this too much of a stretch to compare the work of engaging youth in nonviolent alternatives to militarism, to engaging men as allies in gender-sensitive peacebuilding?  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Strategies and insights

Thank you Babar for sharing these first insights from the campaign - would be very interesting to hear more from your further analysis in the future! Especially learning about why it did work with 40% of the boys and what circumstances may have helped them in taking the message of the campaign further.


Gesa Bent, Coordinator Gender at the GPPAC Global Secretariat

What (outside) factors are important?

Dear Barbar,

I very much agree with Gesa that it would be very interesting to know what were the factors that these 40% did take it on; I personally would also be interested in the methods you would use for the analysis. 

I guess it is less likely that some boys are "born" more gender-sensitive than others. You do mention shortly that the project was about boys' role on in the issue of rape; You do not write about what age the kids were you worked with, but I can imagine that talking about gender roles and maybe try to deconstruct them with boys, possibly in their puberty must be even more challenging?

How do you see from your personal experience religion (also being intertwined with cultural practices) as a factor to make this kind of work with the boys easier or more difficult? You do mention the view on talking about rape in the communities as being seen as promoting adultery.

Support that women and men both need

I am thinking of the comments by Vineta and Babar and that men are truly called to do the work of being allies and advocates alongside women. It is a risky business for them, and in working with men I have seen how much they learn, are inspired and challenged by the work with women. In the ToT training, the participants were asked as part of an advance assessment to interview women in their home context to learn what the women felt were the most important issues the men could work on during the training. We charted the responses, such as sharing power and to stop dominating, and learning to listen to women was by far the most frequently mentioned.

It strikes me that I didn't ask the men what they needed as often during the training. While the participants needs and concerns were expressed during the process, addressing men's needs can be given emphasis without diminishing the focus on women. This is important because men may not be forced, convinced, or even persuaded to be good allies without seeing the benefit to themselves. Following on Vineta, there is the pitfall of getting locked in the binary oppositions of aggressor - victim, an immovable social location that keeps us imprisoned in gender stereotypes.

In the Women's Studies class I teach at City University in NYC, there are 28 young women and 6 young men. We study the history of the women's movement, theory, identity, women at home and work, violence, sexuality, health, globalization, crime, militarism, and transnational networks. I start the women's studies class with Jackson Katz's "Tough Guise." It is an epiphany to start our women's studies semester with a film about men (and women) - something they do not expect - it sets a tone of shared participation in improving the quality of women's (and men's) lives. Though the focus in class is on women's issues through a gender lens/analysis, men's issues and presence continue to be there. From what I know, the young men have not felt marginalized in the class, though there have been times they have been nervous - for ex. the out loud reading of the "Vagina Monologues" when one young man implored not to read aloud. It has been serious and transgressive work.

Films - so many excellent ones - as well as newspapers, websites, and the act of writing short reflections have been resources in navigating the complex emotional terrain of masculinities and feminisms.


Hi Babar, I support your

Hi Babar,

I support your idea, and I think also that it is more important to focus on individual  responsability and on  the young boys and girls. In the fact, socialization begin in the early age, that is why to influence boys and men for positive masculinity must begin also early.              And it is a long process which ask a lot of energy and time.





Experience tells me that all these are processes that when we decide to engage in then they become part of our lives, others will say its our way of life. Patience is really required because we are dealing with attitudes here and beliefs. As this happens, women need to be given space to represent themselves and share their views.They need to be listened to. Men need greater understanding because they are also victims and they urgently need to be liberated from this slavery. I am saying this because we've had cases where men insist on attending women meetings and when asked why their response has always been, "we don't trust these women so we want to know what they do when they are alone" some say they are being taught to disobey their husbands. There are cases where men have been invited to attend gender forums only to end up being abused verbally.

My take on this is that the gender concept has been misrepresented giving it a bad name. I am happy that this is slowly changing.


Trainings and workshops are doing the gender debate some justice especially when they are structured in a way that helps participants reflect so much on their past and how they have been pillars of injustices. I must personally confess that the IFOR/WPP training in Netherlands and Philipines were eye openers to me. It was originally very easy for me to categorise GBV as any other violence, but these trainings taught me otherwise and that GBV should be given special attention.


1. The cross gender dialogue sessions were very important.

2. Reflection sessions were very important too.

3. Most importantly we were urged in different sessions to share few things we were going to share with women close that are very positive plus what we wanted to dump from our norms and the new things we were picking up as new habits that would encourage the ally relationship plus the male female working relationships.

4. The co-facilitation by our two facilitators (Steve & Pat) proved to us that men and women can actually work together and support one another. They served as a perfect example to me and I really wanted to replicate this in the daily work that I do.

5. For the first time I participated in a training that was organised by women men. Very important lesson for me there too.

6. Dialogue with different groups (kitchen table in Holland) among others brought a wealth of experience and relevant information.

Where I come from we say learning is both formal and non formal and through observation I personally got to learn even things that were not part of the programme. This among other sessions prompted us to start thinking in a certain direction something that had never happened before to me even after the many gender trainings I had attended.

Men and women supporting each other in daily work

Very interesting to read your observations Dola! Good to see how many details turned the training into such a transformative experience for you, especially after you attended other gender trainings before.

You wrote:

Oluoch Dola wrote:

4. The co-facilitation by our two facilitators (Steve & Pat) proved to us that men and women can actually work together and support one another. They served as a perfect example to me and I really wanted to replicate this in the daily work that I do.

Have you been able to take this example of men and women working together and supporting each other up and replicate it in your work? I could imagine that the circumstances do not always make this easy so I am curious how it worked out for you.


Gesa Bent, Coordinator Gender at the GPPAC Global Secretariat

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