The Making Good Men Conference that took place on 25th November at Sandy Park was a huge success. Over 100 delegates attended the event. Feedback from the conference has been overwhelmingly positive. Below is part of the address delivered by our CEO Jacinta Wainwright at the conference about why we must focus on boys and young men.

While most men may never use or condone the use of violence, the fact is that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of gender-based violence. Simply the fact that men and young men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence–cries to the necessity for work with boys and men. 

We need to start asking why? Why is violence perpetrated predominantly by men? 

The root causes of gender-based violence can almost exclusively be narrowed down to two things; the fundamental condition of gender inequality for women, and the violent, harmful and controlling aspects of masculinities. 

These masculinities which are culturally and socially constructed and embedded as taken for granted include so-called truths of differences between boys and girls / men and women - such as the often heard saying "boys will be boys". 

At the same time these harmful constructions of masculinity are placed in direct and negative opposition to qualities deemed to be feminine. Our boys are taught from a very young age to denigrate what is deemed feminine – "Boys don’t cry", "Don’t be a girl". 

It is these same harmful notions of masculinity that are behind men's violence against other men as well as against gay men and transgender people. 

In our work at SAFE one can see that young men and boys still learn that the ideal man, 'a real man', is tough, unemotional, powerful, dominant, uncompromising and in control. These ideas of masculinity are not only limiting and dated, they are also dangerous. 

Yet there is lots of reason to hope. In spite of these problematic cultural norms about masculinity there are still many men who reject violence and refuse to use it in their relationships. This points to aspects of our culture and men’s attitudes that are supportive of gender equality and healthy relationships that we can tap into and build on. 

This is not a women’s issue this is everyone's issue.

Work with men and boys can have a positive, transformative impact not only on the lives of women and girls, but also on the lives of men and boys and everyone else who does not identify as either gender.

Not only can we prevent and reduce violence against women, but we can also improve the lives of men and boys by freeing them from these harmful and limiting aspects of masculinities. 

The benefits of gender equality for men are many:

• Not being bullied by other men for stepping outside the gender “box”;
• Not being lumped into a stereotypical group of "men", not having to conform to negative aspects of masculinity;
• More freedom to pursue any activities in which they are interested;
• Being trusted, better relationships, better health; 
• People men care about (mothers, sisters, girlfriends, aunts, etc) have a lesser chance of being harmed by violence and other gender inequalities 
•  Less pressure to be the sole provider and protector, more economic prosperity for all; and 
• More opportunities to be close to your children.

Gender-based violence is neither exclusively a women’s issue, nor a men’s issue, it is a society wide issue. It is preventable. We can all do something about that will benefit every one of us and our children.