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ISTANBUL, Turkey – Rigid gender roles in many countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region mean that men often have limited involvement in caregiving for their children, and women face reduced opportunities in the workplace. Stereotypical gender norms also contribute to gender-based violence, gender-biased sex selection, and harmful practices like child marriage.

Engaging men and boys to bring about greater gender justice – at home, in the workplace, and in society – is the goal of a new platform launched by UNFPA’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Promundo-US, and the MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat.

The EECA MenEngage Platform aims to bring together different actors committed to engaging men and boys to address stereotypical gender norms and masculinities, eliminate violence against women and girls, combat harmful practices that foster injustice, and increase access to and utilisation of sexual and reproductive health rights and services.

‘The EECA MenEngage Platform is an important and exciting way through which we can amplify our collective voice for change,’ UNFPA Deputy Regional Director Ian McFarlane said at the official launch today of the platform. ‘This is a tough agenda, a fundamental issue that we have to solve globally, but what motivates me is the impressive number of extraordinarily creative and courageous initiatives that are already taking place at the country level.’

UNFPA is engaging men and boys through various programmes in the region, including an on-going effort in Georgia to increase fathers’ involvement in family life that features famous fathers appearing on a reality TV programme, and the social-media campaign ‘Daddy, Read Me A Book’. In Tajikistan, UNFPA supports a network of male advocates, including respected martial artists, who are working to advance the rights and equality of women. In Serbia, peer educators with the UNFPA-supported ‘Be a Man’ programme are challenging other young men to question ideas about masculinity, including the acceptability of gender-based violence.

‘I see the EECA MenEngage Platform as a way of boosting solidarity among those working on engaging men and boys and furthering the work that we are doing,’ McFarlane added. ‘I hope that this platform will be a space to share and find additional solutions.’

The EECA MenEngage Platform is part of a gender-transformative approach that seeks to actively challenge and transform rigid gendered norms and relations. It provides tools for its members – non-governmental organisations, civil-society organisations, state institutions, experts, government representatives, academics, and UN partners – to identify measures to transform harmful gender norms as well as conceptual approaches to engage men and boys in gender equality. It also serves as a space to share and exchange best practices, challenges, and lessons learned, and to receive and provide technical assistance. Additionally, the platform will facilitate the creation of working groups and joint advocacy initiatives among the members, in working together on shared issues of focus.