He For She: a movement for gender equality

NEWS.- "He for she" is a campaign created by the United Nations. The impact is greater every year, enabling the movement to be something human rights defenders can celebrate.


No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality. In a lot of countries, women are still openly considered as weaker than men. They cannot drive, they cannot work, they cannot vote or go to school. They are married by force when they are children, they do not have the ability to ask for divorce, they cannot speak out. Obviously, some countries are more respectful of women right, but still, women remain usually less paid than men for the same work, subject to discriminations, when it is harder for them to access an important position within companies or governments. In all countries, organizations are fighting against women’s discrimination, and the media all over the world communicate on this issue.

Gender equality is about men too

Nevertheless, we do not read or hear a lot about another issue related to gender equality: how it affects men as well. Indeed, men do not only have the benefits of equality either. As it is pejorative to do something “like a girl”, there is a lot of pressure on males, inciting them to act “like boys”. Society pressure them to “be a man” or to “man up” since they are children. Thereby, research shows that boys in the United States are more likely to be diagnosed with behavior disorder, prescribed medication, fail school, commit violent crimes or suicide. They have to prove their masculinity all the time, and are less likely to share their pain or anger, as they are taught by society to hide their feelings – sharing feelings is something that “girls do”.
As our culture do not value what is feminized, both men and women are suffering. Women are repressed all the time, with different degrees according to the countries. Men can hardly show their vulnerability and share their doubts. By categorizing strictly the behavior that both gender has to adopt, it harms men and women.

A campaign for everyone

The UN entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women created the campaign “He for She” in 2014. This movement wants to end gender inequality and creates tangible changes. They understood that gender equality is not only women’s issue, but a human right that requires the participation and commitment of men. One of their way to push for changes is to encourage people to “be the change”. They created five specific fields on their website that give information and advices about the way to bring positive change. Firstly, there is the education’s field. It reminds people that all jokes are not funny, and that it is not necessary to laugh when it comes to gender inequality. It also provides a guide to “teach a teacher” the best way to give education regarding gender equality. The second field is the “health” one. It encourages people to talk openly about hygiene and sexual health, and to stand against forced marriage. Then comes the “identity field”. It denounces how girls are sexualized and discriminated as men cannot expressed their vulnerable part. Companies are also responsible for that as they tend to us stereotypes to sell their product. It encourages both men and women to stand for who they really are instead of what they are taught to be. This is the part of “He for She” that brings out the most men’s suffering caused by inequality. The “at work” field underlines the lack of responsibilities’ rotation and the importance of giving to everyone the same chance to pitch in. Also, it asks employers to be aware of the impact of names or other identifying information when hiring. The fourth field is about violence. It encourages people to actively stand against violence and to teach peace. The “politics” field is the last one. Indeed, there is not enough equal gender representation in governments. It needs to start with equal access to education and health care.

To summarize, these five fields represent the ones in which gender equality is the most needed. People have to push for change, and to be this change. “He for She” is about helping people to realize the big gap that still exists between men and women and give advices to change that at everyone’s level. It also tries to explain how feminism is not only about women, and why it needs to stop being perceived as a pejorative word.

He For She’s fighters

More than that, “He for She” uses a lot of ways to have a greater impact. They currently use an art manifestation in New York to spotlight efforts towards gender equality and human rights, and ask some improvements to CEO’s and Head of States. During the Davos forum 2016, the campaign noted the impact they had on a lot of powerful companies, which gave way more credit to women’s employment than a year before, when “He for She” asked them for changes. In 2015 the campaign also launched a “HeForShe Get Free University tour” in the aim to connect with students in France and in the United Kingdom. It generated a sharing with students’ perspectives and a good impulse to institutions on campuses. “He for She” also had an impact on the military. The Australian Army Contingent to the UN Mission in South Sudan committed in a video to “He for She” and stated that “On this mission: wherever we go, whatever we do, whoever we meet, we stand resolutely for women’s rights; we stand resolutely against discrimination; and we stand resolutely to empower those that have been discriminated against. That is our commitment. We will execute it by our deeds.” Through consistent advocacy efforts, UN Women and its partners have played an integral part in raising awareness on this issue and helped a Malawi chief to annul 330 child marriages, and to send back to school hundreds of children. Furthermore, Mr. Jamshed Kazi, representative for UN Women Pakistan, worked closely with the students and succeeded in engaging more than 5,000 men and boys in Pakistan to commit to “He for She”. The International Olympic Committee stated that through the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms it will, more firmly than ever, use sport to promote gender equality and break down barriers of gender norms. The President of the IOC stated that ““As a HeForShe, I will continue to support and promote gender equality in my day-to-day activities as IOC President”. In India, 700 cyclists joined the bicycle rally in Pune, in the aim to campaign for “He for She”. Prior to the rally, a week-long signature drive was organized in the city to mobilize people and encourage them to sign up for the campaign and show their commitment to gender equality. In Dubai, an award-winning local band wrote the song “Fight for Your Queen” to urge men to fight for gender equality. It was a success, as more than 500 men decided afterwards to commit to “He for She”.

The UN campaign is working to make sure that people are aware of the gender inequalities, of their impacts on women and men, and to encourage them to make a change in the every-day life. “He for She” has a worldwide impact, and succeeds in urging students, workers, CEOs and Head of States to commit. Their fight just began, and they need the support of everyone. As Emma Watson, the Ambassador of UN Women, said in the speech she made to launch “He for She”: We are struggling for a united world, but the good news is that we have a united movement”.  With a campaign like this one to support gender equality, we can hope for the best.
Sophie Grobet, research assistant at CIPADH

Sources :

Official website of "He fir She"

Emma Watson HeForShe's speech

HeForShe Arts Week