Young couple Vietnam

Positive Masculinities

“When I learned about gender and equality I figured I could change something myself,” explains Haile, a 15 year old boy from Ethiopia. “I went home, talked about it with my family and offered to share chores with my sister. Now we even study together, and I really like that. This way she also helps me to achieve my goals.”

Men and boys sometimes need help to become confident in being a man and to be able to express their masculinity in a positive way through care, love and respect. Achieving this is good for them and good for women and girls too. Rutgers pursues positive masculinities because this can help deliver improved sexual and reproductive health and rights for everyone.

Comprehensive sexuality education

Young people who receive comprehensive sexuality education should have a good foundation for growing into adults confident in their gender. But even they have to cope with the stress our changing societies place on gender roles. Every society faces the challenges of changing employment patterns, migration and expectations. New generations cannot always look to their parents for role models.


Rutgers runs a programme together with Promundo-US in Brazil, Indonesia, Rwanda and South Africa to make men more involved and responsible fathers. Husbands are encouraged to attend the births of their children. Men who might become absent fathers because of the shame of not being able to provide for their families learn that there is more to it than being an “ATM father”.


Families adopt and sustain what they learn. One couple said, “We have started to treat our sons and daughters more equally.”

Another reported, “We moved from an abusive relationship to one that was free from violence and where we really respect and communicate with each other.”

Because in MenCare+ men who use violence in the home are counselled to deal with their anger, and learn to communicate and share domestic responsibilities with their partners. 


Proud Malawian father with newborn (Marieke van der Velden)

Shaping the future

Rutgers presented the work of MenCare+ to the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2014, arguing that we cannot improve the position of women and girls without engaging men and boys. We see men as allies in reducing gender-based violence and promoting more equal relationships and believe this positive role for men should be recognised in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Better for everyone

The keynote speaker at the Johannes Rutgers Lecture during World Sexual Health Day 2013 was Gary Baker, international director of our MenCare+ partner Promundo. Barker explained that the Dutch language does not have one word for the English term “care giving”. That term covers more than providing care: empathy, responsibility, solidarity and having an emotional tie are all part of it. Barker said caring by men isn’t only good for people around them – women, children, the world – but also for men themselves. These men usually live longer, have better sex, and are wealthier and happier.

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