The United Nations global HeForShe campaign, aimed at targeting male voices, has seen much success around the world. Whilst the project began in 2015, it has only grown since. Even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the initiative has spread rapidly across social media, bringing men from all walks of life into its objectives.
Having a keen interest in social media, as well as a passion for women’s issues and women’s rights, the project quickly engaged my attention. This is why, when studying Arabic at Qalam wa Lawh in Rabat, Morocco, as part of my year abroad, it was a clear subject for me to choose as my final project for my course. At Qalam, students are encouraged to pick a topic of global development to analyse, research, and, most significantly, support.
As part of my project, I began with some fundamental research regarding the project, before moving on to the main body – creating my own social media content in both English and Arabic. I asked my male friends and family to take pictures and videos of themselves discussing or showing their views on gender equality. To be honest, I was quite surprised at the results.
From a positive perspective, the vast majority responded with an energy, enthusiasm, and passion which demonstrated an ability, particularly amongst the young generation of men, to engage with issues regarding gender equality. Some of their arguments were nuanced and interesting – ranging from the importance of women in governmental decisions to the impact of sexual harassment and the need to eradicate it. Watching these clips and seeing the images gave me an immense feeling of pride in those close to me – and you can watch the full video here for an impression of the important statements made. I want to take this opportunity to formally thank each and every one of you – your contribution has not gone unnoticed.
However, the project, albeit simple, revealed a plethora of issues we are still facing today in this domain. Not everyone was so willing to contribute. Without wanting to attack anyone personally, as respect for others’ decisions is always paramount, I became increasingly aware of a significant factor driving people’s eagerness to partake – other people’s opinions. Many people asked were worried about what their friends would think. In short, they did not want to be seen openly supporting women’s rights. It isn’t ‘cool.’
This surprised me. It is often these exact people who claim that women now have full equality, that we no longer face gender-related issues. And herein lies the problem. If we are not all willing to openly discuss and support each other, how can we ever fully overcome the challenges we face in the world today?
Gender equality is everyone’s problem. Above all else, this project has revealed how far we still have to go in removing the taboo of men talking about women, and the work we still have to do.
Image: Erin Waks’ video cover. You can watch the full video here.