More information in Portuguese about this award-winning program.
The Masculinity and Citizenship Project is part of a series of actions by the Diadema municipal government which invest in services, building works, programs, projects, monitoring and control of public policies in the city's most violent and needy areas. Functioning since 2002, the Project began at the Beth Lobo House, a municipal public service which became a reference for its work with women suffering gender violence. The daily work at the House showed a clear need to include the men in debates about violence against women, offering alternatives so they could reflect on their relationships and modify their behavior.
One of the main objectives of the Project is to elaborate a public policy that answers to the needs of the male population, carrying out debates with men on the models of masculinity that predominate in society, and the use of violence for the solution of conflicts, especially those that are gender-related. The Project hopes, in this fashion, to contribute towards eradication of violence against women and to raise awareness among men as to the importance of promoting health and as to their involvement in issues of sexuality, reproduction and child-care.
Activities are coordinated by the Women's Rights Advisory Board together with the Youth Rights Advisory Board, both municipal organs linked to the Department of Social Assistance and Citizenship. In partnership with the Center for Health Studies (CES), a NGO focusing on education for sexual and reproductive health, the Project creates men's groups, divided by age. Among the adults, the focus of debates is centered around gender issues, although incorporating general health issues, especially tobacco and alcohol use.
The methodology used during these encounters aims to raise awareness among men that gender is a social construction, and that women are being harmed by the models of female and male roles which exist in society, encouraging the men to revert this scenario. Group sessions show what they can gain from adopting new patterns of behavior and from reflecting permanently on their relation to stereotypes of man, woman and living in society.
Project Version H works with the young men who frequent the Youth Reference Center. After some initial resistance, Version H became an important space to debate and reflect on values which respect differences and promote equality between men and women. The project seems to be awakening in adolescents and young men the awareness that changes in their own attitudes can help transform their relationships with others. Version H also trains the youths to work as project multipliers.
Among the actions developed by the Masculinity and Citizenship Project is the promotion of gender training for municipal staff members. The course deals first with social issues linked to gender, then with issues such as male identity, health and STD/Aids.
A big challenge for the coordinating team is guaranteeing sustainability of actions by means of adequate technical support, production of adequate teaching materials and training and supervision both for the professionals involved and for the young multipliers from Version H. Another obstacle stems from some sectors of the feminist movement, who disagree with actions of this kind as they consider that investment in programs focusing on men removes resources which could be invested in new public services for women, especially those suffering from gender violence.
Despite this debate, the Program shows clear gains in terms of strengthening the citizenship of men and women, youths and adults, by encouraging the debate on masculinity as a subject in public services, generating reflection on gender relations in several actions implemented by the City Hall.