Men and Boys Coalition
On 15th November 2016, two Mengage practitioners were present at the House of Commons launch of the Men and Boys Coalition, a new network comprised of – as the spiel on the MBC website states, “organisations, academics, journalists, professionals and leaders committed to highlighting and taking action on the gender-specific issues that affect men and boys”.
A cross-section of people in attendance included academics from different disciplines, charities and organisations working on male-specific concerns, equality spokespeople, and campaigners and media commentators. Facilitated by Mark Brooks from the Mankind initiative, founding members of the coalition and event hosting Labour MP Ann Coffey gave opening statements as to their own work and rationale for a national network addressing linked concerns and issues affecting males. Higher profile ‘men’s work’ organisations were present – Jane Powell CEO of CALM raised men’s suicide as an outstanding concern – and we hope that other academics, commentators and organisations such as the Men’s Health Forum will also soon be on board with this multi-agency, cross disciplinary initiative.
There are a number of concerns that affect delivery of work with boys and men that impact on work across the sector; there is certainly a lack of synergy between research, practice and policy that impacts on sustainable delivery of work. Primarily research feeds into practice and informs policy – but it is policy that acts as the real driver of work. In the case of men’s health, consultant Peter Baker has demonstrated that having a men’s health policy (ergo his review of the Irish National Men’s Health Policy ) makes “the issue of men’s health more prominent and [provides] a framework for action”. Having a Government policy or strategy also releases finance into the sector, something that hard-pressed charities and shoe-string organisations are only too aware of.
Whilst the MBC is about more than men’s health – the organisations involved cover many facets of work, there is acknowledgement that issues are interlinked; Mengage certainly supports this via our recognition of work on the social determinants of health – social mobility, education, employment, stress, social exclusion, and social support. Working With Men’s Shane Ryan commented on the need for representation of diversity within the network, as well as the MBC’s criteria that member organisations do not hold views, sentiments or make statements that are anti-women/girls, take resources away from women/girls and do not acknowledge the full and positive contribution that women and girls make to society. Journalist Martin Daubney commented that we need to move away from the ‘gender wars’; a principle of Mengage is that we acknowledge that men’s health encompasses a broad range of theories and disciplines and as practitioners we seek to acknowledge this in our work. We do not promote any work on a rights-based or gender-ideology basis. Martin’s statement on this was welcome – and the presence of academics from different disciplines was also welcome given the historical context of men’s health work in particular being in separate academic silos with little cross-talk between disciplines.
As a national forum work with men should reflect just that. Mengage’s work takes us to London and the larger cities, especially with our schools-based work, but it also takes us into rural areas and small towns across the country where there is likewise a need to work to improve the lives of boys and men; issues concerning rurality and men often play second fiddle to urban-centric considerations, so we would hope that this is recognised by MBC members and provides a forum to explore and raise the profile of this.
Working in the field of men’s health, we would argue that an overarching male health policy recognising the rationale for work with males and action on prevention, and the linked social determinants of health would provide the fiscal impetus and drive to address some of the concerns common to coalition members. No one organisation can lobby for this in isolation – having a coalition that acts as a broader mouthpiece to lobby for action is essential for raising the profile of men and boys work. The House of Commons event provided a good start to bringing together the various sectors of men and boys work in the UK and the work of the founding members is to be applauded for putting the coalition together. Great event – and we look forward to more of the same!
Further accounts of the day and Men and Boys Coalition work can be found at:
Men and Boys Coalition – the work of the coalition and links to member organisations and supporters
DadblogUK.com – the work of fatherhood commentator John Adams
Introducing the Men and Boys Coalition – journalist Ally Fogg
Stop the pointless gender wars and get behind our Men and Boys Coalition – whoever you are – journalist and broadcaster Martin Daubney
Charities launch coalition to tackle issues facing men and boys – follow up Third Sector report