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).
Men's control and domination of political and public spaces must be relinquished for greater gender equality in public and political processes, fora and spaces. Quotas for positive discrimination have improved women’s numerical representation in formal politics in most countries, but this does not seem to radically shift patriarchal cultures within institutions of power. Important progress and successes aside, women’s inclusion in social movements has sometimes been ‘instrumentalised’ or opportunistic, and has sometimes even reproduced gendered power imbalances.
Men have reacted in different ways to women’s increased public and political participation. Whilst men’s different material interests appear to influence the degree of their support for - or resistance to - women’s participation, men can also gain from equality, due to relational and collective interests. Evidence on effective strategies for men’s engagement in gender-equal public participation is sparse, but examples include: strategies in formal political institutions; strategies for women’s equal participation in wider social justice movements; and pro-feminist activism emerging from men’s engagement in addressing gender-based violence in community-based initiatives. However, there remains a major gap in programming and activism with men in support of women’s public and political empowerment, going beyond current programmes focused on interpersonal issues. There is a general lack of evidence on effective approaches for increasing men’s active support for and engagement in women’s public participation, and we need better evidence on how institutions and their gender cultures can be reformed.
This chapter on Public and political participation turns to the theme of greater gender equality in public participation and politics, and especially with respect to men’s relevance to – and roles in – achieving it. This EMERGE case study explores how work with men can contribute to a change process, and can support women’s participation in public and political life. The work of the Samajhdar Jodidar (meaning ‘understanding partner’) project in rural Maharashtra, provides an interesting and important example of the role men can play in contributing to progressive social change on women’s public participation. A growing group of men have built an engagement for addressing gender-based violence (GBV), in Men’s Action to Stop Violence Against Women, or MASVAW. This case study explores the role of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through collective action; a collaboration between the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) in New Delhi, the network MASVAW in Uttar Pradesh, and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom.