Engaging Male Allies on Women, Peace and Security

Crowd shot of the room featuring speakers and audience members
Publication Date: 
26 Jul 2016

News Type:

On July 21, 2016, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) hosted “Engaging Male Allies on Women, Peace and Security,” the seventh installment of the “Women, Peace and Security” Capitol Hill breakfast briefing series.

Bill Sweeney, IFES President and CEO, and Dr. Beata Martin- Rozumiłowicz, IFES Regional Director for Europe and Eurasia, opened the event by highlighting IFES’ global focus on women’s empowerment, including its developing Male Allies for Leadership Equality (MALE) training curriculum, which puts into practice a systemic and practical approach to work toward the understanding that gender equality and women’s empowerment will only be achieved when women and men work together toward that goal. Dr. Martin-Rozumiłowicz then introduced the panel, which was comprised of Ambassador Steven E. Steiner, Gender Advisor for the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP); Randal Mason, Principal of Randal Mason Consulting; and Vasu Mohan, IFES Regional Director for Asia-Pacific.

Ambassador Steiner first discussed the role that men can play in furthering the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. He has found men to be the “indispensable other side of the UNSCR coin” and has sought to proactively engage male allies throughout USIP’s programming. Working with networks of non-governmental organizations in places like the Balkans and Afghanistan, USIP has provided training that aims to build trust among male participants and teach them how to deal with anger and achieve objectives without resorting to violence.

Mason then provided the audience with an overview of how to be a male ally and their role within gender equality strategies. He urged men to support women’s organizations, particularly those with identities different from their own, which comprises the first step of “knowing when to show up.” The next step, “knowing when to speak up,” involves active listening and investments in bystander education programs, and is followed by “knowing when to shut up,” which he explained as knowing when to step back and let those already leading in this space speak up. Mason closed by stating that even though “there is so much to do … the good news is women have done a lot of the work for us,” and encouraged allies to seek out writing by authors like bell hooks and those featured on blogs like Everyday Feminism.

Circling the conversation back to examples of male allies in action, Mohan highlighted male allies IFES has encountered in countries such as Afghanistan and the Maldives, in roles as diverse as fathers, husbands, trainers, and election Commissioners. He spoke of how, for example, large numbers of men were engaged as allies in IFES’ flagship Muslim Women’s Initiative in India. Senior scholars were involved in reaching out to other male leaders and mitigating their reluctance to allowing women to attend IFES workshops, with many eventually becoming allies and champions. To demonstrate the importance of gender equality for both men and women, Mohan cited Bahá'í writings, which state that “as long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.” To emphasize this point, Steiner advocated for teaching men that gender equality within their families, communities, and countries is not a zero-sum game. Mohan added that such equality involves respecting both women and traits considered feminine, whether they are displayed by men or women.

Panelists then fielded questions from audience members about best practices for engaging male allies, transgender women, and female university student leaders; program design and evaluation, especially across countries with different social and economic conditions; changes needed in the security sector and its institutions; and potential “lessons learned” for the United States. Dr. Martin-Rozumiłowicz then invited panelists to share a few concluding remarks, which covered the importance of including young men and women’s voices, as well as being cognizant of intersectionality and differences in power and access to resources at the institutional and individual levels.

To view a photo gallery of the event, please click here.

IFES’ next “Women, Peace and Security” briefing will be held on Thursday, September 22, 2016. To RSVP, please contact Liz Sidell at esidell@ifes.org.

Summaries of previous “Women, Peace and Security” breakfast briefings can be found below.