Namaste and greetings from Nepal.
I recently had the good fortune to travel to Nepal, for a confluence of meetings and consultations spearheaded by the United Nations and the global Men Engage Alliance. The conference was attended by UN officials from UNDP, UNIFEM, UNFPA, and over 40 NGO’s from 9 different countries. We were meeting to discuss a joint UN campaign on working with men and boys to end gender based violence, and to build stronger ties among colleagues in the region.
Nepal is known as the melting pot of South Asia. The birthplace of Buddha, a sacred Hindu city, and you can still hear the Muslim call to prayer from several mosques as well. It is both chaotic and serene, ancient yet modernizing, beautiful, but polluted all at the same time. It was the perfect setting to witness colleagues from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal collaborate, share learnings, and develop plans for this work across the region.
Specifically there are three very exciting initiatives to report. First of all, with many thanks to the hard work of James Lang, the Gender Advisor for UNDP in the Asia Pacific Region, this was the first planning session for a joint UN project over the next 5 year to address violence against women by working with men and boys. This will be a comprehensive campaign, with an overarching public awareness message, accompanied by capacity building for NGO’s, research, and country specific projects. We were invited to share our experiences with White Ribbon campaign efforts from around the world over the past 15 years, and moving forward will be a key partner in this project.
Second, this meeting dovetailed with the South Asia consultation of the Men Engage Alliance, of which White Ribbon is an international member. The steering committee consists of Instituto Promundo (Brazil), Save the Children Sweden, Engender Health (USA, South Africa), International Planned Parenthood Federation (UK), and Sahayog (India). Men Engage is a global alliance of NGO’s working with men and boys to address gender equality through a wide range of issues, from gender based violence, to HIV/AIDS prevention, to post-conflict reconstruction. Only about a year in the making, Men Engage has now held two regional consultations with plans for two to three more for this year in Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. This was a chance for these 40 NGO’s to gather to build skills, share practices, and identify country wide strategies for moving the work forward.
Finally, it was an opportunity to meet and connect with individuals and organizations conducting White Ribbon work in this region. Last year in Bangladesh, over 100,000 ribbons were distributed. Campaigns took place in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. We can truly say this is a global movement, and I was inspired by the stories of their work. We have now forged a face to face bond, and there are exciting possibilities for more advanced collaboration in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
As always with these experiences, I feel I came away learning much more than I was able to share with the participants. I am also confident that this consultation will be the beginning of some powerful and important work coming out of the region. Stay tuned for more follow-up from the meetings and the work happening in South Asia.
Todd Minerson, Executive Director
White Ribbon Campaign