Iceland’s Progressive Party along with Suriname, hosted a conference in the spirit of the “HeForShe” campaign launched by actress Emma Watson last year at the United Nations, January 14-15, 2015 to foster their mission to open up a female-led debate to men to discuss gender equality, parental rights, and female representation in business. Only men, including world leaders and business executives were invited. Dubbed the Barbershop Conference, the title hoped to evoke the type of conversation men might have in a male-dominated environment. There is not a more qualified nation than Iceland to co-host this conference as Iceland has the best gender equality record in the world. Up to 400 people attended. Icelandic Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson in his address emphasized the importance of men taking part in discussions on gender equality and on eliminating gender-based violence by recognizing that one third of women will be victims during their lifetime and that in 95 percent of cases, that violence is committed by men. The youngest speaker, 13-year-old Max Bryant (from New Jersey) expressed his hope that by changing boys’ perspectives today when he becomes an adult barbershop conferences would no longer be necessary. Henry Mac-Donald, Suriname’s UN ambassador stated “We had a very simple goal to have a space at the UN filled up with at least 70 percent men…In order to engage men, you have to find a way for them to communicate and have them come. And they came.” The presence of women, whom some criticized or feared would be excluded, did not inhibit the men.
Why a Barbershop Conference?
- Almost every man has been to a barbershop
- Men talk to each other and reinforce attitudes
- Most conversations reflect the stereotyped roles of women and men
- Rarely are serious issues at the root of discrimination and violence against women discussed
- Barbershops can provide a setting for men-to-men discussions about their role in acknowledging woman’s rights and ending violence against women and girls
Focus of Barbershop Conference
- Ending violence against women and girls
- Show men how their own attitudes and behavior perpetuate men’s violence against girls and women
- Show men how rigid definitions of what it means to be a man or woman and beliefs about those roles continue the violence
- FINAL MESSAGE: All men (and not all men perpetuate violence) can help prevent and eliminate violence
African Connect Supports Barbershop Conference
Since its inception, African Connect has taken on as one of its missions to raise awareness about the gender inequality issues facing the world that harms women and girls and limit their potential, and therefore their communities and nations. Unfortunately, this effort is seen as a “women’s issue” and their responsibility. The solution to solving this global challenge is to make men and boys part of this challenge.
The Barbershop Conference held in NY at UN Headquarters rallied men and boys and challenged them to commit to upholding gender equality and to change the conversation among themselves.
African Connect was there to participate and bring this vital message back to our listeners and followers.