Development policy and practice tends to take men’s current multifarious roles in the economy, the community and the family as ‘naturally given’. It does not see the gender role divisions as an evolving process. The development initiatives attempt to improve the lives of the people (read men and their families) without altering the status or identity of men. There is a tendency to overlook the fact that across most of the differences like caste, religion, generation, class, race and so on exist almost a uniform privilege that men as a group share, that is their gender privilege (Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 6-7)[iii]. Despite the differences and regardless of their positioning in other hierarchical structures, men generally have a strategic common interest in defending and not challenging their gender privilege or the patriarchal dividend (Connell 1995: 82 in Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 7 )[iv].
According to Greig, Kimmel and Lang, the initiatives which confer privileges on one group are often not visible to that group. Gender privilege is one of the patriarchal dividends that are conferred on men by the patriarchal gender order. Not having experienced gender discrimination, men tend not to consider themselves as gendered beings. This is one reason why policymakers and development practitioners often conflate ‘gender’ and women and see gender issues as only women's issue (Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 7-16)[v].
There are several arguments for mainstreaming men as a gender in the development initiatives. These arguments include the medico-social perspectives which points out that the performance of masculinity by men not only causes gender related diseases, early deaths and a high rate of suicides but also that men do not develop their full human potential or the ability to relate to women in a sensitive way including mutuality and caring (Jalmert, 2003, p 2[vi] and Gokova, 1998[vii]).
Another argument suggests that by focusing on men and masculinity, development programmes can forge men’s relationship with the process to change gender inequalities (Sweetman, 2000)[viii]. This view is supported by some from equality and social justice point of view, that is, men as well as women may be disadvantaged by social and economic structures and that they both have the right to live free from poverty and repression. This view contends that empowerment processes should enable women and men to be liberated from stereotyped gender roles (Cleaver, 2000)[ix].
The social output perspective calculates the high costs of gender inequalities or lower economic output due to gendered division of labour and suggests changes in the gender role through development initiatives and process. This perspective uses the idea of efficient investment in women or men to optimize higher economic returns.
Yet another view exploring the hegemonic masculinity and its impact on work and family, suggests that the focus on women, in education, employment, policy, legislation and other development areas and processes has led ‘men in crisis’. The analysis suggests that the ‘men in crisis’ syndrome has been created because of the gradual erosion or undermining of the traditional bases of male power and identity in the families (Chant, 2000)[x]. Addressing the issues arising from the threat to the traditional masculine identities is essential especially for the prevention of violence and psychological abuse (Chant and Gutmann, 2000, p 28[xi] and Sweetman, 2001, p 1[xii]).
Development practitioners disagree about the need to work with men as well as on how to work with them. There are wide ranging differences of opinion over the sectors and contexts in which men should be involved as beneficiaries. Even when the need to work with men is recognized as an important means to achieve gender equality there is a dearth of clear and workable strategies (Smith, 2001, p 58)[xiii]. There is clearly a need for more research and exploration in order to develop ‘deliverable’ strategies. Also, participation of men in development as beneficiaries should not be at the cost of women’s rights agenda. Projects which mainstream men into development would continue to require special design features to facilitate and promote the inclusion of women. Participation of men has to be strategized in such as way that there is as little friction between gradual shift in men’s gendered roles and improvement in women’s access, equality, and benefits leading to long-term improvements in their social and economic status. The gender mainstreaming agenda, whether to include women or men, should not be treated like either or approach. The mainstreaming agenda should deploy combination of approaches including gender specific to gender relevant, or women/men specific projects to projects targeting both men and women.
[i] Chant and Mathew Gutmann (2000), p 31, Including men in Gender and development: Practice, Experience and Perspectives from Development Organization in Debates, Reflections and Experiences: Mainstreaming men into Gender and Development, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[ii] Andrea Cornwall (1998), Paper titled ‘Missing Men? Reflections on Men, Masculinities and Gender in GAD’ presented at a Seminar – Identifying the Gaps, Setting the Agenda, 8th-9th September 1998, University of Bradford
[iii] Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 6-7, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[iv] RW Connell 1995: 82 in Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 7, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[v] Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 7-16, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[vi] Lars Jalmert, 2003, The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality – Some Swedish and Scandinavian Experiences, EGM/Men-Boys-GE/2003/EP.13, United Nations
[vii] Jonah Gokova, 1998, Sexual Health Exchange, 1998 No. 2
[viii] Caroline Sweetman (2000), ed, Editorial in Men and Masculinities, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[ix] Frances Cleaver (2000), IDS Bulletin, 31.2, April 2000
[x] Sylvia Chant (2000), 'Men in Crisis? Reflections on masculinities, work and family in north-west Costa Rica', European Journal of Development Research, 12, 2, December 2000
[xi] Sylvia Chant and Mathew Gutmann (2000), p 28, Including Men in Gender and Development: Principles and Rationales, Debates, Reflections and Experiences: Mainstreaming men into Gender and Development, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[xii]Caroline Sweetman (2001), p 1, Introduction in Men’s Involvement in beyond Rhetoric: Gender and Development Policy and Practice, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[xiii] Sue Smith (2001), p 58, Tackling Male Exclusion in Post-Industrialized Setting: Lessons from UK, in Men’s Involvement in beyond Rhetoric: Gender and Development Policy and Practice, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB