We know that social, economic and political trends have important links with shifts in gender equality and men’s relationships to women’s empowerment, positively and negatively; trends such as globalisation, urbanisation, increasing (and more gender-equal) enrolment in education, changing types of conflicts and resurgent nationalisms or fundamentalisms. We also know a little about how social processes and trends are mediated by policies, institutions and movements. These range from international frameworks down to national and local policies, institutions and services, but also involve interactions between formal and informal dimensions of institutions and process. A key finding from recent evidence is that there has been a focus on individual women’s or girls’ empowerment rather than policy attention to gender relations or structural perspectives, or these complex interactions.
Gendered inequalities and power relations are intersecting (or 'working together') with other inequalities, such as social class, age, ethnicity, race, ability and sexuality. Yet, more needs to be learned and shared on these topics; particularly on the way that masculinities figure in such intersectionality and how that affects linkages and relations between different political projects, movements and struggles. In the language of the principles underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), men’s and women’s lives are also ‘indivisible’, where personal identity also reflects social, economic and political dimensions, which constantly interact and coexist across both public and private spaces. We therefore need to explicitly link masculinities and men relationally to women’s economic empowerment, the sharing of care work, sexual health and wellbeing, equality in public participation and with responding to conflict and violence (including gender-based violence).
Gender norms around fatherhood, men's involvement in caregiving and unpaid work have undergone some - if limited - shifts in recent decades. With women now representing 40 per cent of the paid workforce, men have also begun to play a larger role in care work; more so in some regions than others. However, there is also male resistance along with systemic barriers to the more equal sharing of unpaid care, and still much to be done. Women are still spending one to three hours more each day on housework, and two to ten times as much time on caring for a child or older person than men. To advance gender equality, the burden of care work on women must be alleviated and redistributed equally between men and women, whether that involves unpaid work in the domestic sphere or a revaluing of care work with more social provision of care.
Complementing the crucial work of women's movements and advocates highlighting the multiple burdens compounded by undervalued/unpaid care work being shouldered primarily by women, there is an ongoing need for policy-oriented research. This includes studies for identifying successful and promising policies to create systemic shifts in the care–work dynamic, such as options for paid, non-transferable paternity leave, socialised care and other policies tailored to informal work economies. There is some – if limited – evidence on certain programmatic strategies that have been successful in engaging men to shift gender norms around fatherhood, caregiving and balancing the sharing of care. Yet, more evidence is needed on how the issue can be solved at greater scale.
The chapter Fatherhood, unpaid care and the care economy from the report 'Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality' provides an overview of some of the broad shifts in unpaid care work and men's caregiving at the international, national, local and individual levels. This EMERGE case study details the implementation and impact of MenCare – a global fatherhood and caregiving campaign – in its engagement of men as involved, non-violent fathers for the advancement of gender equality in six Latin American countries – Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay.