UN Barbershop Conference A Success, Says Foreign Minister - The Reykjavik Grapevine

UN Barbershop Conference A Success, Says Foreign Minister

Published January 20, 2015

Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has returned from last week’s UN Barbershop Conference, held in New York. Interviewed by Bylgjan, the minister described the conference as highly successful.

The stated goal of the conference was to “promote change in how men and boys think and talk about women’s empowerment and gender equality”, focusing on initiatives “that aim to support non-sexist male attitudes and behaviours between men.”

The program

The conference consisted of three events, according to the minister. First, a luncheon brought together around one hundred UN representatives, “almost all of them male, perhaps three or four women. That’s just, the fact, how these roles are appointed,” the minister said. At the luncheon, the officials “opened up” according to the minister, “and stepped out of their roles, which was important”.

The second event was a symposium on men, titled “What makes a man?”, where, according to the minister, “two thirds of the 150-200 participants were male”. Todd Minseron, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campagin and the UN Secretary-General’s Netork of Male Leaders to End Violence Against Women led the session, before participants broke up into small group discussions.

Interviewed by Bylgjan, the minister failed to mention the third event, titled “The Barbershop”. This is where “prominent leaders from different fields” were, according to the conference program, brought together to “speak about their own experience and commitment to gender equality and engaging men and boys.”

Evaluation

Recognising that the idea behind the conference originally faced mixed opinions, the Minister commented: “I think today no one doubts that this initiative was beneficial”. The minister also said that the event had been highly beneficial for Iceland.

Asked if the event will be repeated annually, the minister said that it remains to be seen, and will be decided according to a further evaluation of this one’s outcome.

The conference was announced as an “exceptional contribution” to the HeforShe campaign, which aims to encourage men to support gender equality. The campaign was launched by actor Emma Watson at the opening of the UN General Assembly in 2014.

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