Bergþóra Harpa Stefánsdóttir, media representative and treasurer of the UN Women’s Youth Council, has announced that five men now join the six women who currently sit on the council. Stundin reports.
The council, which has only ever been composed of women between the ages of sixteen and thirty, has found that young men do not engage with the work the council does, because it is widely seen as being exclusively for women. To tackle this, and to increase the participation and interest of men, it was decided that a project would be launched to find a panel of men to help with the council’s work, visiting schools and educating young people on the goals of the UN Women and the state of worldwide gender equality issues.
“Unfortunately, boys listen more to other boys and, in some cases, girls even listen more to boys,” Bergþóra says. “This seems to be a common dynamic in society and we in the council thought: Isn’t it smarter to have men and women in our presentations, thereby reaching as many people as possible?”
The council turned to the local community to find young men who may be interested in taking part and found five men between the ages of nineteen and twenty five who were keen to be involved. “We are very grateful to have these guys with us”, Bergþóra says, “Even though it was only these five who showed an interest, they were so quick to decide that they wanted to join us, and have been put straight on the agenda with presentations in schools.”
Men didn’t know they could get involved
When asked why she thought these men hadn’t applied for a position on the council before, despite a clear interest in it, she stated that it has perhaps not been made clear in the past that men are allowed to sit on the council, and that it can be very exciting work. She suggested that it was often the case that women who are on the council only thought about joining the council after hearing about the work they do from someone in their local area. “I, myself, had seen advertisements and even worked for UN Women, but I had no idea what a great job the council is doing. Maybe it seems unexciting from the outside. We need to think about how the position is advertised and how we can make it more attractive.”
She is hoping that the new members will realise how exciting the job is, and tell their male friends about it, thus attracting more men in the future. The council also hope that it will lead to an increase in young people’s involvement in gender equality issues overall. “It might be that when these guys hear other guys say something that offends women, they’ll be encouraged to stop it and tell them its not cool to speak like that.”
Áskell Friðriksson, one of the five men who have taken a seat on the council’s education team, says that he knew very little about UN Women’s work before. When he got to know the council’s chairwoman, Sigríður Þóra, last year, he started to learn more about their work and gained more of an interest in it. Since joining the council Áskell has visited schools around Iceland to talk to students about the position of women in the world today, from wage gaps to forced marriage. “It is important that the education is provided by both men and women, as this is an issuer that concerns everyone,” he says. “It’s important for male students to see other men teaching these things.”
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