José León Torres and María Magdalena Castillo, husband and wife project participants, at their home in the community of Las Haciendas

Chapter 4: Engaging Men

José León Torres and María Magdalena Castillo, husband and wife project participants, at their home in the community of Las Haciendas


  • To engage men in the process of supporting women in policy advocacy efforts
  • To raise awareness about how the roles of men and constructions of masculinities facilitate or impede gender equality efforts


Since the 1990s, there has been a growing body of work on engaging men in gender-related work. This work recognizes that a sole focus on women will fail in part because it overlooks the relational aspect of gender equality. That is, without greater understanding of men and constructions of masculinity, the institutions and norms that uphold inequalities cannot be dismantled.  Engaging men should not be understood to be shifting focus away from women and girls, but improving the lives of women and girls also cannot be achieved without working with men and boys. Nor is it about laying blame with men and boys. It is about understanding how social, economic and political norms and institutions create opportunities or constraints for men, in much the same way that we understood these to affect women. It is about identifying the gender issues that negatively affect men and how these can altered to support gender equality and improve outcomes for women, men, girls and boys.

In Honduras, the GAPP team recognized and understood that social norms shape not only women’s behavior but men’s as well. This meant that to be successful in supporting a gender equality agenda, the Approach must work with men. Under the GAPP Approach, this was done through parallel capacity building activities targeting men that explored perceptions and images of masculinity. In the region where GAPP was implemented, masculinity is defined by men’s ability to provide for their household and by being the primary decision-maker in the household and elsewhere. They take on lead roles in agriculture and in the institutions that support agricultural productivity, like ICRs, and are gatekeepers, defining and shaping the lives of women and girls. As with women and girls, men and boys are socialized into these roles, a process that often teaches them that risk-taking and aggressive, domineering behavior is expected of them. The GAPP project, like other projects that engage men, designed workshops during which men could question the prevailing norms around masculinity and negative stereotypes that impede them from taking on caregiving roles in the household and roles supporting women. These activities aimed to improve the social context so that together, both men and women could work together to shape the policy environment.


Define the Strategy for Reaching Groups of Men with Whom You’ll Work.

The results of your gender analysis should provide you with information about the influential groups of men in the communities where you will be operating. These can be religious or community leaders, spouses, government officials, extension officers or others. It is important to understand what role these men play in defining and shaping constraints to your gender equality agenda and then define a strategy for engaging them. Three target groups of men were identified for this component of the GAPP project:

  • Spouses of the women members of the RMM, also thought to be members of the ICR
  • Representatives from local NGOs
  • Representatives from local government and the municipal offices.

Implement a Range of Awareness Raising Campaigns and Workshops.

The GAPP project employed two different mechanisms for this component. The first was in the form of workshops using the materials, EQUINOCCIO (See Equinoccio), developed by CBC. The second was to hold forums designed to distribute materials about the topic and to identify potential participants for the workshops.

Initially the project had intended to largely use workshops and monitoring visits as a means for reaching and engaging men but faced significant challenges recruiting men for the workshops. The GAPP team considers these two approaches to be complementary: The workshops provide a space for individual reflection, while the forums and campaigns build community support for positive behavior change. Like women, men need the acceptance and understanding of their peers and spouses to adopt new behaviors and the campaigns aim to create an enabling environment in which change can happen.

This led the project to adopt a more broad-based approach whereby discussions and awareness raising campaigns were embedded into GAPP’s municipal-wide forums and activities.

The format of these workshops changed over the course of the project because of significant challenges identifying and recruiting men to attend the workshops. The original strategy was to conduct two to three day workshops with different groups of men: in the ICR, in local NGOs and in local government. This was done the first year but the number of men who participated were very small and the project reached a little over 55 men. Following this, the strategy shifted to a community-based approach.

Confronting masculinity workshops
(Procesos de sensibilización en masculinidades)

These workshops aim to change behavior among men by having them confront and deconstruct their perceptions and ideas of masculinity in an effort to rebuild a more positive and supportive image of what it is to be a man. They rely on experiential learning processes rooted in an understanding of the individual and the collective self. The methods are participatory and reflective, designed to tap into men’s physical and emotional perceptions of self.

LWF-DWS with its partner CBC led masculinity workshops with a range of rural male and female stakeholders as a means of enhancing support for gender equality initiatives. The masculinity workshops were delivered in Tambla and Tomala, as well as in Erandique, Gualcinse, Candelaria and Piraera. Men from different rural institutions were targeted for these workshops including representatives from ICR, municipal offices, and local NGOs. Initially it was also expected that the spouses or partners of the women in the RMM would attend. Only on one occasion however were the masculinity workshops directed specifically to spouses or partners of the women in the RMM. This was done in one municipality at the request of the RMM, which identified that the women’s spouses were creating obstacles to the development of the RMM.

Municipal Forums on Masculinity
(Foro municipal en masculinidad)

Masculinity activities were woven into many of the municipal-wide activities organized by the project. Municipal Forums on Masculinity aim to broaden support for gender equality. The Municipal Forums on Masculinity are an important mechanism of reaching more men and a strategy for positioning masculinity issues in public discourse. While the masculinity workshops are designed to allow participants to reflect in small, safe, and intimate spaces, the Forums are meant to educate the general public about the concept of masculinity and how it relates to other efforts to support gender equality.

Lessons Learned

  • It’s hard to recruit men for masculinities workshops! The GAPP team remains committed to pursuing a gender equality agenda with men as partners and allies. And the team considers it important for men to go through a reflective process about how their attitudes and behaviors perpetuate negative actions and yet, at the same time, can be changed. These changes can benefit them as well as others. However convincing men to engage in this process was not easy, as reflected in the low numbers of men who participated in the masculinity workshops. Men’s own machismo, what the project was trying to change, got in the way of men’s participation. The GAPP team made adjustments to the masculinities component to reach a larger audience but these efforts were more diffused, making measurement of change more difficult. Greater attention is required to identify a range of strategies for bringing men into the process.
  • We need to better manage men’s expectations about how they will benefit from the project. A review of the different reports from GAPP partners indicates some level of dissatisfaction from men about the project. Specifically these reports indicate that some men felt that the project had not provided them with the tangible resources to advance their  livelihoods. Yet, the GAPP project was not designed to benefit men in tangible ways. The GAPP project aimed to improve women’s access to resources. Men have largely benefited from agriculture projects in very tangible ways through improved access to credit, seeds, fertilizer and other inputs. Their networks expand through interactions with extension officers and buyers. However, the GAPP project was not designed to provide men with these opportunities and yet asked them to participate. This finding goes hand in hand with the previous one about  recruiting men. The work of engaging men must begin with laying out the expectations for their participation how they will benefit. We are asking them to change their expectations for how they will benefit from this project, the first step perhaps, in changing other more difficult attitudes.
  • How can you measure men’s support of gender equality? The masculinity component is a behavior change activity. As such, it requires careful consideration of how and when to measure behavior change. Pre and post workshop tests, which were employed during the GAPP Project, are insufficient to understand whether behavior change has occurred. At best they might capture new knowledge gained but cannot be an indicator that men will act differently with their new knowledge. Careful definition of desired behavior change outcomes, an area that is less known to agricultural practitioners, is critical to being able to design and measure masculinity activities.
  • Be clear how to reach the different groups of men you wish to target. As described above, the GAPP team outlined different groups of men that it wished to reach with the masculinities training, including spouses of the women members of the RMM. The assumption was made that these men would be members of the ICR and that by conducting the workshop with the ICR the training would be reaching the women’s spouses. This turned out to be untrue. Because this component had difficulty reaching men in general, it’s not clear that a strategy to train the spouses of the women in the RMM would have resulted in better outcomes than targeting other groups of men. The lesson that can be learned is that the mechanisms to identify the target population must be validated, and in this case, understanding that the ICR was not a way of reaching the spouses of women in the RMM.
  • Engaging men, like “adding women,” is not an afterthought but must be given proper attention in the project. Both men and women were the target audience for the capacity building programs. While the masculinities workshops were conceptually given almost equal importance as the women’s leadership training, in practice the budget and scope for these activities was less than what was allocated to the women’s leadership workshops. Additionally, the masculinities component was not well integrated into the rest of the project, which was a result not just of limited funding, but the GAPP teams’ difficulty in finding common ground for working together.