The two-day UN Barbershop conference uniting male leaders and activists to share ideas and devise strategies for addressing discrimination against women kicked off in New York yesterday, reports RÚV.
The conference, arranged by Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and the Surinamese government, also plans to discuss ways to combat violence against women and girls.
As reported, there was a backlash following the announcement of the conference as critics felt that an event to discuss women’s rights aimed solely at men seemed counterintuitive.
Gunnar Bragi felt these responses were a misunderstanding however.
“We are convinced that we will not eliminate violence against women or achieve gender equality unless we get men involved,” said Gunnar Bragi in his opening speech at the conference yesterday. “This means getting men to discuss frankly with each other how to achieve gender equality. It means getting men to talk together about violence against women – to recognize that one third of women will be victims at some time during their lives – that means, potentially, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our wives and partners. And we need to be frank about the fact that in 95% of cases, violence against women is committed by men.”
The Barbershop conference was created as a response to an invitation to men to join in the gender equality conversation made by the HeForShe campaign. So far over 200.000 men have pledge their support to the cause, including all male ministers in the Icelandic Government.
In 2013, about 85% of Iceland’s aid spending had gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal or significant objective.
A review of data on violence against women from 70 countries, over 40 years, concluded that feminist movements were the critical factor when it came to improving policy and practice on gender-based violence. Regardless of this fact however, research by international women’s fund Mama Cash found that feminist movements were severely underfunded. Less than 5% of funding goes to women’s, girls’ and transgender people’s human rights work.