International guests: involving men around the world

Jessica’s account of the Breaking the Cycle Study Visit in The Netherlands

After the initial meeting in Samoa and the seminar in India, it was Emancipator’s long-awaited turn in the Breaking the Cycle program. We were happy to welcome our partner organizations from Samoa, India, Madagascar, Spain and Sri Lanka to our study visit which took place from the 7th until the 13th of May 2019 in Amsterdam.

Our program started with a welcome session on Wednesday in which we got to know each other and the organizations we are representing. Moreover, Emancipator hosted a public event on sexual and street harassment prevention in which individuals but also organizations like Fair Space, Sex Matters and the municipality of Amsterdam joined. Participants compiled a free agenda of topics which would guide the process of the day. Discussion groups emerged freely and seamless, creating the platform for inspiring discussions among individuals with different cultural backgrounds and expertise about intervention strategies against sexual and street harassment.

How can we tackle domestic violence and why is collecting women’s stories so imperative in the contemporary society? Questions like those were answered on the second day of our program where we visited the Dutch organizations Blijf! Group and Atria. After enjoying Dutch street food in the heart of Amsterdam the participants explored Vrouw en Vaart and Daadkr8, where we also worked together on the advocacy toolkit and the best practices that are also a part of the Breaking the Cycle project.

On the third day of our program we hosted a public event at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in Den Haag which was dedicated to the question in which ways men and boys worldwide can be involved in gender equality and the prevention of violence against women. Rutgers, WO=MEN, UN Women and many other organizations and individuals contributed their knowledge to our discussion. From the backlashes experienced in contemporary societies, the importance of structural interventions for social change and the importance of men and women working together towards gender equality – the ‘fishbowl’ proved to be an effective discussion setting in promoting a rich conversation on topic related issues.

To give our participants the chance to experience Amsterdam’s beautiful architecture, its famous “grachten” and other tourists hot-spots like the Red Light District or the Dam Square, we spent the Saturday morning showing them around the city. In the afternoon, we visited the Heineken Experience to learn about the brands’ efforts to engage in gender equality by conscious branding choices. After we got inspired in how advertisements can be created in a more progressive, inclusive and gender equal way, we couldn’t miss to join the well-known “Heineken Experience” tour.

Throughout the week, our participants learned about the public transport system in the Netherlands, the dangers of crossing or standing on a bike lane for too long and, unsurprisingly, the Dutch ever-changing weather. Thanks to the efforts of our event manager Melissa, our participants also enjoyed the cultural diversity of food which the Netherlands has to offer.

The last day of our program took place in a more personal setting where we cooked and had our last dinner together at the house of the founder of Emancipator while sharing our experiences, feedback and thoughts of the week.

And then finally, gathered around an old piano, our two talented participants from Samoa who share a close affinity to music dedicated a last beautifully played song to all of us which turned out to be the perfect closing of an inspiring, thought provoking, intercultural journey. All of us agreed that the study week has brought us together as friends as well as a community who strives for the same goal yet in different contexts – to involve men and boys in gender equality and to break the cycle of gender-based violence even though we face forces and backlashes from multiple directions. We exchanged and shared our diverse knowledge and expertise, our strategies and approaches, got inspired by several organizations and individuals in the Dutch context and learned anew about the importance and urgency of our work.

Read more:

On the project Breaking the Cycle
On our event organizer Melissa from Maction
On our partner organizations: CHSJ from Delhi, FISD from Sri Lanka, Youth First from Madagascar, SVSG from Samoa, Cerujovi and Diputación Provincial de Cáceres from Spain