Engaging Men as Allies and Partners

Since 2001, we have trained more than 15,000 men to support women's empowerment.

Naming the Problem and Identifying Solutions

“We need the men to learn what we are learning.” We heard this over and again from women in our programs.

From Nigeria to Afghanistan, the message was clear. Male relatives and community leaders can prevent women from applying lessons and the skills they learn, not just at home, but across all aspects of their lives. With fragile legal protections and unstable political conditions, women face even greater restrictions and challenges.

In 2001, after focus group discussions and conversations with trainers, WfWI country teams developed pilot programs in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to train men. The goal was clear: create a place for men to explore gender, masculinity, and understand the benefits to families and communities when women are empowered.

Change is Taking Root as Men Advocate for Women's Rights

With the support of organizations like DfID and Pro Mundo, WfWI developed effective programs and has trained more than 15,000 men in the most rural and isolated communities of Afghanistan, Iraq, the DRC, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan and Kosovo.

In classes led by local male trainers, men learn and explore ideas of gender and violence using strategies such as role-play, reflective sharing, and small group discussions. Together, they talk about sensitive issues like masculinity, gender-based division of labor, and their role in preventing violence against women and girls.

Men Report Shifting Attitudes and New Behavior

Through baseline and end-line research and focus group discussions with men – and women – to assess attitude and behavior change, we are learning how our programs are making a difference.

For example, in the DRC, we found that 92 percent of men surveyed report they have talked with another man about women’s rights and the need to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, compared to 56 percent before the program. In Afghanistan, 51 percent of male graduates surveyed report they took action to reduce gender-based violence, compared to 13 percent before the program.


Photo Credit: Alison Wright

Ghulam Rabi's Story: Challenging Violence in His Community

In one of the most conservative places in Afghanistan, Ghulam Rabi is changing the way his community understands women’s rights. As a respected elder, Ghulam’s community often turns to him for advice and guidance on important issues like marriage. One night, not long after he finished our men’s program, a man came to him with a question. The man was struggling to support his family, and wanted to know if he could marry off his daughter for money – a common practice in the community.

Before the training, Ghulam told us his answer might have been “yes.” But instead, Ghulam told the man he could not sell his daughter for money, and the man listened.

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Inspired to Share Lessons and Support His Daughter's Dreams

Change is also happening in households. Inspired by the discussions he had during the men’s program about women’s rights, Said Merwais of Kabul says he now sees his wife, sister, and mother differently. Before, he acknowledges he treated them poorly, and was always very angry with them. Since the training, however, he says he has been sharing what he learned about women’s rights with his wife and other friends in the community. He also wants to support his young daughter’s dreams, and hopes someday that she will become a doctor helping others.

Expanding Our Programs to Engage Men as Allies

In conflict-impacted and war-weary countries with fragile legal systems and economies, enlisting men like Ghulam and Said is key to creating an enabling environment for women’s empowerment. This fall, WfWI has launched a new campaign to expand the program to reach more communities and engage men in new countries including Rwanda.

To partner or learn how you can support these efforts, contact ARogers@womenforwomen.org.

Watch: Inspiring Stories of How Men Support Women’s Empowerment