Issue 5: Engaging Men and Boys to End Violence Against Women

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It is a tremendous honour for White Ribbon to have been invited to co-author Issue 5 of the Learning Network Newsletter on Engaging Men and Boys in ending violence against women.

This wonderful partnership experience between White Ribbon and the Learning Network at the University of Western Ontario, is precisely the kind of partnership that helps grow our capacities to do this work, to enrich our shared understandings around what it means to involve men and boys, and to make transformative change on this issue.

In this Newsletter we have tried to represent the spectrum of work around engaging men and boys through different lenses. In highlighting projects and programs from Canada and across the world we wanted to showcase existing and promising efforts around: Involved Fatherhood; Youth, Sports, and School; Aboriginal Men; Cultural Communities; and Men Who Have Used Violence. 

Even with this broad list it was not possible to include every aspect of engaging men and addressing masculinities, but we have tried to ensure that the spectrum is further reflected in the enormous, current, and comprehensive Annotated Bibliography compiled for this issue.  It is our hope that this bibliography is an accessible and valuable tool for many years to come. In no way does the focus we have chosen diminish the importance of considering all other dimensions of men and masculinities, for example: gay, bisexual and transgender men; men and mental health and/or addictions; men in prisons; male survivors of abuse; and so on.

It is so very critical as men in this effort that we acknowledge what has come before us, and we make explicit some of the terms and conditions around doing gender equality work. The non-negotiables as we call them at White Ribbon are:

  1. Women having been doing this work for decades (centuries?) now, and any work around engaging men and boys must be rooted in the principles of feminist equality and human rights. Doing this work without accountabilities to women and women’s organizations is simply not acceptable.
  2. We need to have meaningful and sophisticated conversations about resources with our funders and with each other. Primary prevention work with men and boys cannot take pieces out of an already under baked pie of resources for women, rather they need to be baked into a bigger and more robust pie to deal with this issue comprehensively.
  3. The work with men and boys must be gender transformative, which is to say it must challenge existing harmful conceptions of masculinity, and posit new more compassionate and humane ones for the world. As they say, no change, results in no change.


Incorporating prevention work with men and boys is an essential piece towards creating a safer, more equitable and violence free world for women and girls. One of the core challenges is convincing men and boys that the struggle for gender equality has a net benefit for us as well.

Patriarchy and the dominant, harmful expressions of masculinity that support it, are not only causing obvious and traumatic harm for women (and so many other marginalized groups!); it is the root cause for turning out men and boys who chose violence (against women, and against each other), for men who turn to unhealthy behaviours to cope with the challenges of life, for a construction of our gender that tells us to bury our feelings, to limit our choices in careers, expressions, and relationships.

Engaging men and boys in this work will create a more humane, just, and compassionate world for all, and we hope that you will see that in the profiles and resources in this Newsletter.

Until the violence stops,

Todd Minerson, Executive Director, White Ribbon

Men’s Attitudes and Behaviours Toward Violence Against Women

Infographic by White Ribbon Campaign

The White Ribbon Campaign conducted an Ontario-wide survey with 1,064 men, 18 years of age and over in May 2012.  The following statistics are a sample of the results.  Visit for more information.

  • 94% believe violence against women and girls is a concern to them
  • 87% think violence against women and girls affects all women including the women in their life
  • 96% agree that domestic violence can happen in any family, regardless of cultural background or economic situation
  • 79% disagree that domestic violence is a private matter to be handled in the family
  • 97% agree that “men can personally make a difference in promoting healthy, respectful, non-violent relationships”
  • 91% would likely intervene if they knew someone in a violent relationship.  The majority of men (56%) in Ontario think that men and boys are more aware about violence against women today than they were 5 years ago.
  • 78% disagree that women often say “no” when they mean “yes”
  • 89% disagree that if “a woman wears provocative clothing, she’s putting herself at risk for rape”
  • 86% disagree with the statement “when women talk and act sexy, they are inviting rape”
  • 98% agree that both partners in a relationship are free to say if they don’t want sex
  • 97% believe both partners have the right to initiate sex equally provided there is consent
  • 96% feel that it is important that a woman be as happy as a man in a sexual relationship­

Engaging Men Initiatives from Canada: A Selection

Involved Fatherhood

It Starts With You. It Stays With Him
In 2009, White Ribbon Canada, in partnership with the Centre ontarien de prévention des agressions (COPA) launched the bilingual online-based social media campaign, It Starts With You. It Stays With Him (Ça Commence Avec Toi. Ça Reste Avec Lui). The goal of the campaign is to facilitate men’s capacity to engage boys and young men in their lives and communities by promoting gender equality and teaching the skills and benefits of healthy relationships. The campaign addresses the positive roles men can play in ending violence against women, as fathers, role models, allies, and influencers. It encourages men to actively embrace their role as change agents in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women in their families and communities by positively influencing the boys and young men around them.  Visit COPA online.

Aboriginal Men

I am a Kind Man: Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin
I am a Kind Man: Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin is a campaign developed in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and the White Ribbon Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to engage Aboriginal men and youth in understanding and preventing violence against Aboriginal women and girls. The program incorporates the Seven Grandfather Teachings (wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth) and supports a holistic model for community healing that encourages Aboriginal men and youth to understand their roles and responsibilities in ending gender-based violence. The campaign developed two toolkits for community engagement. The first toolkit is aimed at Aboriginal men and older youth. The purpose of this toolkit is to help Aboriginal men establish effective ways to address violence against women with other Aboriginal men and older youth in the community. The second toolkit is aimed at Aboriginal youth (ages 8 to 14) and is used to encourage young people to learn about healthy relationships and gender equality. There are several organizations that offer facilitator training for the campaign and/ or host an already trained facilitator that can assist in implementing the campaign in a local community. I am a Kind Man: Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin also provides ideas for community action, contacts for support services for men, and resources and materials.  Visit OFIFC.

Youth, Sports and Schools

The Fourth R
The Fourth R is a school-based universal prevention program that promotes healthy relationships and targets violence, high-risk sexual behaviour, and substance use among adolescents. The first version of the curriculum was piloted in 2001 in a few schools in South- western Ontario. Currently, the Fourth R has been implemented in over 2000 schools across Canada and is one of the two dating violence prevention programs for the Start Strong initiative in 11 U.S. cities. The classroom-based curriculum is aimed at students in 7th to 12th grades and is incorporated in health education classes, English courses, or cross-curricula. There are also adaptations of the curriculum for Native youth, alternative school settings, and after-school programs. Recently, the programs have been enhanced with a mental health component. All school curricula comply with Canadian provincial and U.S. State academic standards. Evaluations of the program have found that students who receive the Fourth R curriculum show a decrease in dating violence, an increase in condom use among sexually active boys, and a lower risk of violent delinquency associated with several forms of child maltreatment. Furthermore, teachers indicated a high level of satisfaction and confidence with the program and supported its sustainability.

Cultural Communities

Muslims for White Ribbon
The Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign originated in Toronto in 2011 in response to the Shafia case where Mohammad Shafia, along with his second wife and son, killed his three daughters and first wife. The campaign aims to break the silence around violence against women in the Muslim community, promote healthy relationships through education, and create partnerships among Mosques, women’s organizations and other social agencies in order to create a future without violence against women. The campaign provides samples of Friday Khutbahs (sermons) that can be used to address domestic violence in the Muslim community, resources for women who need support, information/education on domestic violence in the Muslim community, information on upcoming events, and, stories of Muslim men signing the pledge to end violence against women.

Men Who Use Violence

Bridges Institute
In 1990, the Bridges Institute was established in Nova Scotia by volunteer members of the local probation office, transition house, child protection office, clergy and members of the community concerned about ending men’s violence against women. Bridges started out as an intervention program for abusive men that utilized the traditional “Duluth Model.” However, in 1998, the Bridges Institute changed their curriculum to include primarily a narrative therapy approach to counselling. The Bridges Institute provides individual and group counselling to men who use violence in their intimate relationships and to their current or ex-partners. The Bridges group manual for working with abusive men has been adopted as the official manual of the Departments of Justice in both New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The Bridges Institute has published internationally and presented work in Canada, Asia, Europe and the United States.  Bridges also sponsors the Canadian Domestic Violence Conference and the Winds of Change conference.

The Learning Network and White Ribbon have compiled an Annotated Bibliography of over 100 online resources related to engaging men and boys to end violence against women.  A preview of five resources follows:

Engaging Men and Boys in Domestic Violence Prevention: Opportunities and Promising Approaches

L. Wells, L. Lorenzetti, H. Carolo, T. Dinner, C. Jones, T. Minerson, & E. Esina. The University of Calgary, Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence (2013).
This paper was written in response to the request from the Government of Alberta in 2011 to redesign the province’s family violence prevention framework. The paper highlights the importance of involving men and boys in preventing violence against women and outlines seven promising areas for engaging men and boys in domestic violence prevention (i.e., engaging fathers, men’s health, sports and recreation, role of the workplace, peer relationships, men as allies, and Aboriginal healing). Examples of initiatives, policies, and practices within these seven areas are reviewed. 

MenEngage Alliance Call For Action – CSW 2013: Making Primary Prevention from Gender-Base Violence a Global Right

MenEngage Allicance (2013)
This brief “calls for scaling up and implementing” universal prevention programs to end male violence against women. It includes 10 concrete actions that the UN and national governments “can and should take” to engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls. 

Policy Approaches to Engaging Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality and Health Equity

World Health Organization (2010)
This brief provides a case for using policy approaches to engage men, a framework for integrating men into policies aimed at reducing gender inequity, and highlights some policy initiatives that have advanced gender equality.  

Engaging Boys and Young Men in the Prevention of Sexual Violence:  A systematic and global review of evaluated interventions

C. Ricardo, M. Eads & G. Barker. Sexual Violence Research Initiative and Promundo (2011)
A systemic review of 65 studies that evaluated school-based and community sexual violence prevention programs for young men and boys was conducted. The review contained high-quality studies that included randomized control or quasi-experimental designs from 11 countries. It represented a diversity of economic and cultural populations.  Implications for the development of effective intervention programs are offered.  

Community Resource Guide: What can I do to help the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls?

Chapter 1 (section E) Toolkit: Men as Effective Allies Native Women’s Association of Canada (2010)

This toolkit outlines steps for Aboriginal boys and men to learn to stand as allies and support Aboriginal girls and women. The four steps include embracing traditional or spiritual teachings; engage in personal growth and in relationships; get involved as a role model, in peer support, and as a member of a community; and, become an advocate for gender equality and healthy relationships. 

Father’s Day Breakfast

In its 7th year in London, ON, this community and education initiative invites coaches and male students to become engaged bystanders in the prevention of violence against girls and women.

Now Available on

Engaging Men & Boys to End Violence Against Women: An Annotated Bibliography of Online Resources. Compiled in June 2013 by White Ribbon and the Learning Network.

Video Presentations from the Learning Network’s Human Trafficking Forum. Hosted in London, Ontario on March 5th, 2013.

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Guest Editors from White Ribbon

Todd Minerson, Executive Director
Humberto Carolo, Director of Programs

The Learning Network Team

Linda Baker, Learning Director
Marcie Campbell, Research Associate
Anna-Lee Straatman, Research Associate
Elsa Barreto, Digital Media Specialist