MenCare+ transformed men’s attitudes towards gender inequality through workshops, counselling sessions and messaging campaigns across Indonesia. The six-part program engaged men in classes on newborn and maternal health, provided counselling to perpetrators of domestic violence, and trained men to advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights. MenCare+ also rolled out in Brazil, Rwanda and South Africa, providing 3,729 men and their partners with gender-based violence therapy.
Results & Impact
At baseline, only 13% of male participants expressed views on gender equality that were deemed highly equitable according to a qualitative survey. By the end of the intervention, the percentage soared to 44%. In Gunung Kidul in Yogyakarta, advocacy from MenCare+ partners led to a decree declaring child marriage illegal in 2015, while the Rifka Anissa’s Women’s Crisis Centre successfully lobbied for a “men’s desk” at the local police station to refer perpetrators of domestic violence to counselling sessions.
Rutgers WPF-Indonesia, Promundo US, Rifka Annisa Women’s Crisis Centre, PKBI Lampung, PKBI East Java, and Pulih, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment.
MenCare+ was comprised of six interrelated interventions. A range of workshops focused on caregiving, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health for both young men and women. Health sector workers were trained to engage men in caregiving, parenting and early childhood development. Counselling sessions were offered to men who had been violent in the home. Large-scale messaging campaigns were also organised, alongside legal and political advocacy at local, national and international levels.
Men and boys, women and girls, parents
Cost & Value
Funding was provided by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Completed in 2015
The sheer array of interventions posed challenges to implementation partners, many of whom were specialised in single-issue interventions such as domestic violence victim support. Implementing a range of programs required significant investment in retraining and recruitment. Secondly, retention of men was particularly difficult in rural areas: many migrate for work and attendance varied. Thirdly, some local norms were hard to shift. Religious beliefs about pre-marital sex and the belief that a woman should obey her husband were barely impacted by the intervention.
MenCare+ was a four-country project covering Indonesia, Brazil, Rwanda, South Africa. Thanks to its success, the program has now been adapted and expanded into Prevention+, a five-country, five-year flagship violence prevention project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Favourable attitudes to women’s empowerment soared by 31% among Indonesian participants of MenCare+, a six-part intervention aimed at engaging men in caregiving to advance gender equality and prevent violence against women and children.
MenCare+ was designed to engage men aged 15 to 35 as equitable partners in maternal, newborn and child health, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), caregiving and violence prevention in Brazil, Indonesia, Rwanda and South Africa. Over three years, MenCare+ messaging campaigns reached in excess of 123 million people, and directly engaged 8,600 young men in sexual and reproductive health rights groups. A further 6,900 new or expectant fathers took part in workshops on caregiving.
Alexa Hassink of Promundo, MenCare’s managing partner, is clear on the need to reach out to men: “Encouraging active fatherhood and men’s caregiving is crucial on the basis that we’re never going to reach full equality unless we’re engaging men in the domestic sphere.”
Developed from groundbreaking research undertaken in the International Men and Gender Equality Surveys (IMAGES), MenCare+ combined six interventions to transform attitudes to gender equality.
One set of workshops transformed men’s understanding of sexual and reproductive health rights. Another focused on fatherhood and caregiving for couples. MenCare+ group sessions were all interactive, creating safe spaces for men and women to reflect on their own experiences of violence, and even ways in which they have used violence against others.
A separate program trained healthcare workers in engaging men in women’s and children’s health projects. Counselling groups were also set up to help men who had perpetrated violence against women and children on the road to reform and recovery.
MenCare+ also comprised macro-level campaigning: national and international messaging campaigns aimed at shifting embedded cultural norms, while implementation partners engaged in advocacy and lobbying that produced tangible results. Indonesia’s Rifka Anissa Women’s Crisis Centre successfully advocated for making child marriage illegal in one region of Yogyakarta, and convinced police stations to set up men’s desks to refer perpetrators of domestic violence to counselling programs.
Attendance at MenCare+ workshops was voluntary: men’s desire to improve as fathers or husbands was key in motivating them to attend. Others were referred to workshops by village leaders and local officials.
In Indonesia, some 2,600 men attended SRHR groups, while a further 2,200 participated in fatherhood groups or couples programs. Qualitative surveys showed substantial progress in men’s attitudes towards gender-based violence: the percentage of men who believed that women should tolerate violence in order to keep a family intact dropped from 55% to 32.5% over the three-year intervention.
A range of other attitudes related to gender equality also improved: by the end of MenCare+, around 71% of men believed that contraception was a shared responsibility, a 17% increase from baseline. Attitudes on victim-blaming in cases of rape, respect for women’s autonomy, and belief in caregiving as a shared task also improved significantly.
“We’ve had plenty of hurdles,” explains Lany Harijanti, Indonesia’s Country Representative at Rutgers and ex-Program Manager at the UNDP. “Some religious groups have been resistant to our teachings around sexuality and women’s rights, but now we are trying to work with faith leaders to encourage more gender-responsive readings of holy scriptures.”
Other hurdles faced involved the complex nature of implementing multiple programs simultaneously, some which were outside of their specialism.
A final challenge was recruitment and retention in the men’s groups. In rural areas, many men leave for months at a time to search for work, meaning their attendance at workshops was often patchy. In other groups, namely the counselling sessions for perpetrators of violence, social stigma discouraged men from seeking help.
The official implementation of MenCare+ concluded in 2015, but many of its projects have continued in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair’s flagship men’s program, Prevention+, a five-year, multi-country project working in Indonesia, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as in parts of the Middle East and North Africa region. In Indonesia, for example, the Rahima Foundation, an organisation using gender-responsive readings of Islam to advance gender equality, has joined as a key implementation partner under Prevention+.
“We hope that these projects will be adopted by government and become standard practice,” says Harijanti. With increasing collaboration between the project and government officials – particularly at local levels – engaging men in the fight for gender equality might just become a reality.
(Picture credit: Flickr/SWXXII)