UNESCO joins forces with leading gender equality organizations to accelerate the “Transforming MENtalities” initiative

UNESCO joins forces with the Global MenEngage Alliance, Promundo US, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and White Ribbon – four leading gender equality organizations with vast experience in engaging men and boys and work on ending gender-based violence – to accelerate the Transforming MENtalities Initiative.

COVID-19 has contributed to expose the destructive effects that harmful gender stereotypes have on our societies, particularly as they perpetuate gender inequalities and disproportionately affect women .

Gender norms and stereotypes normalize violence against women and violence against children, fueling the horrific rise of domestic violence experienced everywhere during the pandemic, up to 72% in certain places. In 2019, 243 million women suffered sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner – that is 462 women per minute. During imposed confinement measures, abusers further exercised power, control and abuse over women, who often had less income, fewer opportunities for social contact, or limited access to services and community support. Social distancing also led to the increase of cyber-violence and harassment – by 50% in some countries.

Women, who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. As a consequence, 66% of women report being stressed, compared to 34% of men in certain countries. Feminized sectors are hit the hardest and women’s employment is 19% more at risk than men’s. For instance, 72% of domestic workers, 80% of whom are women, have already lost their jobs during the pandemic.

In addition, COVID-19 has exacerbated childcare-related burdens. According to Promundo’s State of the World’s Fathers 2021, men spent, on average, 3.5 hours per week more on childcare, whilst women worked an additional 5.2 hours per week. At this pace, it is expected to take 92 years to close the gender gap in unpaid care work. One of the many reasons is that among 105 countries with paternity leave policies, men can only access a median of 5 days.

COVID-19’s consequences on gender equality are a wake-up call for the international community.

Legislating for gender equality through gender-transformative policies and COVID-19 recovery packages must go hand-in-hand with challenging social and cultural norms and stereotypes, combatting all forms of biases, prejudices and discriminations – based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, (dis)ability, socioeconomic and migration status, or others.

Now more than ever is the time to ‘build back better’. Guided by two decades of delivering work on norms of masculinities, UNESCO is ever-more committed to transforming mentalities and engaging men and boys alongside women and girls to advance gender equality.

Together with UNESCO, four prominent organizations – Global MenEngage Alliance, Promundo US, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and White Ribbon –bring their unique high-level expertise and know-how, valuable networks and partners at all levels, and effective resource mobilization: from Global MenEngage Alliance’s reproductive justice and sexual health and rights advocacy to Promundo US’ campaigns to foster equitable, nonviolent fatherhood practices and men’s equal involvement in caregiving; and from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s knowledge management of violence against women and children to White Ribbon’s projects aimed at promoting healthy masculinities to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.

As a part of the Transforming MENtalities Initiative,* the aim of this multistakeholder partnership is to champion a world free of gender biases, stereotypes, violence and discrimination to help build a post-COVID-19 world where people of all genders can thrive.

Moving forward, UNESCO and its partners will leverage their collective expertise to inform the development of a gender-transformative framework, aimed at changing cultural and social norms through policies, advocacy and capacity-building initiatives. These include feminist-informed legislation, affirmative action, incentives, and quotas, and other proven tools.

UNESCO looks forward to furthering the global gender equality agenda with the new co-leaders of the Initiative on a broader scale. Stay tuned to learn more about the advancement of our efforts.


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