How men can help shift gender norms during COVID-19 crisis - #HeForShe

By Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, HeForShe advocate

Date: Thursday, April 23, 2020

Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. Photo: UN Women/Ashira Rupphom

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting women especially hard, as they face the triple burden of vulnerable occupations, additional domestic duties, and increased tensions within confined households. With 4 billion people across 90 countries staying at home, rates of domestic violence are already increasing.

More must be done to mitigate the specific impacts this crisis is having on women. Men have a duty to help, and an opportunity to reset gender norms going forward. Here are five concrete measures they can take now to shoulder their share of the burden, and avoid making things worse for the women in their lives:

  1. Share the load: When everyone stays home for social distancing, there is more to do around the house, and less outside help. Women already spend 11 times more of their day on domestic work than men in our region. And yet they are still often expected to take on more of the new, extra work. 

    You can shift these gender roles by taking on your share. Help with home schooling, learn to cook, do more of the cleaning, and take care of the children, elderly and sick. This will support your partner, mother, sister and any other women in your household. 

  2. Be a HeForShe father: Spending more time with their father helps a child’s grades, well-being and self-esteem, which are all linked to improved life outcomes. Talk to your partner about how you can nurture, engage, and support your child at every stage of his or her life.

    Fathers can be just as nurturing and affectionate as mothers. If we deny this and only allow them a secondary role in childcare, then we perpetuate mistaken and repressive gender norms.

  3. Create a safe and respectful environment at home

    Sometimes home is where the harm is. Even in the 12 months before COVID-19, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 worldwide experienced sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. Since the lockdown, women face increasing physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence.

    Everyone has a right to be safe at home. This is a stressful time for everyone and we can all examine our own behaviour to create a safe and caring environment. Men can also become positive role models.  Check out HeForShe tips on understanding and managing your emotions.

  4. Don’t be a passive bystander – be proactive and check in with women you know

    Look out for signs that women around you might be in distress. Check in with them and tell them where they can get help. If you hear that a neighbour or friend is experiencing violence or abuse, don't stay on the sidelines. Call the police or offer to find a way to get the help they need.

  5. Develop clear communication and don’t forget to play.

    Talk to your partner about how you can support each other in and out of the home. Creating schedules and sharing the burden of care is essential for equity between women and men. Share information and promote a positive environment at home to foster learning and development of your children.

    This crisis is incredibly stressful for everyone and it is important to play and have fun together. Talk to your partner and kids, read stories, have game nights, play dress up, watch movies and enjoy the time you are spending with each other.

People all over the world are trying to figure out how to protect and care for their families and finding they are stronger together, and this time is an opportunity to build stronger bonds with our families and create a more equitable society by supporting women.