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Guidance document of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls: Men’s accountability for gender equality


07 February 2023

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Over the past 12 years, the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls (WGDAWG) has documented progress, gaps and challenges in the realization of women’s and girls’ human rights. In the context of fragile gains, slow progress, and growing backlash, the WGDAWG considers it important to mobilize and activate a broad range of actors to advance women’s and girls’ human rights and change gender norms. Gender inequality is an expression of deeply entrenched systemic discrimination based on unequal power relations that must be transformed to advance gender equality.

The engagement of men and boys in achieving gender equality is critical. The idea that men and boys have a key responsibility and play a vital role in overcoming gender inequality is deeply rooted in feminist activism throughout history. Feminist movements have often called on men and boys to support women and girls in ending violence, discrimination and gender injustice.

States have also made normative commitments recognising the critical contributions of men and boys in the achievement of gender equality. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action envisioned men’s engagement in gender equality as a necessary means to challenge and transform the structures, norms, practices, and institutions that sustain male privilege and power. This reinforces Article 5 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which holds that States must take measures “to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customs and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”


In this 2022 guidance document, we reflect on the notion that achieving gender equality requires a significant shift from men’s mere engagement, to focusing on men’s accountability for gender equality to redistribute power and dismantle systems of male privilege. This guidance document outlines the WGDAWG’s position on men’s accountability for gender equality, setting out lessons from emerging approaches and promising practices and defining key principles to underpin men’s role in advancing gender equality.