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Monday, March 30, 2009

Live from MenEngage Rio: Gender Equality as a Human Right

Posted by Theresa Castillo

The opening session here at MenEngage reminded me that I was witnessing a historic moment: The focus on engaging men and boys to achieve gender equity has emerged as a top priority for both human rights and public health activists and advocates in recent years.

The Symposium, and the support it is receiving from UN agencies, is a testament to this positive change. The conversation is no longer about why it is important to involve men; instead, we are now talking about how to scale up current partnerships, advocacy efforts and effective programming. It is an inspiring time to be in this field.

In the coming week, I hope we have a chance to examine the shared responsibility among both men and women for bringing about change—it is not only men who hold traditional attitudes about gender role. Women, too, may reinforce such stereotypes. Seemingly innocent comments like "take it like a man" are really reminders that boys and men should hide their emotions or else they could be viewed as being too "feminine"—too weak. Every unchallenged stereotype becomes a step back in achieving gender equality and social justice. We can all change this as individuals, which leads to community change, which leads to.... As I said, it's an inspiring time to be in this field.

Theresa P. Castillo has worked domestically and internationally in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, adolescent mental health and health disparities for over 14 years. She received her A.B. in psychology and pre-medicine from University of Chicago. Her graduate training includes a Masters degree in Public Health Education with a focus on women’s health, violence prevention, and cultural competency among immigrant/ refugee populations from Columbia University. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist, Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer and was an Emerging Leaders fellow for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, Theresa is a Senior Program Associate for EngenderHealth with the Men As Partners® Program. She lives in New York.

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