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The best initiatives: 

  • have a bold vision but work to change norms from within by building on men’s existing responsibilities 
  • work with agricultural, health, and behavioural change specialists 
  • work across individual, community, and institutional levels making sure to engage key indirect stakeholders and decision formers within the family and in the community 
  • use innovative methodologies – conduct thorough research, develop a strategy, pilot, revise, pilot again, and use lots of different methods to say the same thing. 

Culturally relevant data should be obtained alongside standard nutritional data such as the household dietary diversity score (HDDS) and individual dietary diversity score (IDDS) (1, 2)

1. SPRING. 2006. Household dietary diversity score. Washington, DC: United States Agency for International Development.

2 Kennedy, G., Ballard, T. and Dop, M.C. 2011. Guidelines for measuring household and individual dietary diversity. Rome: Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
. A rapid participatory assessment ensures the best ways of working on culturally specific gender opportunities and constraints can be identified. 

Move from personal to political
It is important to move beyond interventions that focus on individual responsibility for securing nutritious food because men and boys are embedded in wider structures that condition their behaviour. They must be supported as they begin to confront and question the cultures at home, in the community, at work, and presented by the media, which shape their psychological and social identities. Activities might include:

  • developing men-only groups to help men support each other in changing their behaviour and challenge concepts and practices related to traditional ways of being a man 
  • strengthening men’s personal commitment to gender equality and equipping them with the nutritional and agricultural knowledge and skills to put that commitment into practice in their own lives 
  • relating messages to men as fathers. 

BOX 2: Peer pressure

MEGEN Kenya: "We can’t go on thinking and believing that we are superior to women. However, we have a lot of pressure as men from our families, friends, and workmates expecting us not to change. We conform because we are afraid to be laughed at or be stigmatised or be called ‘weaklings’. These fears make it difficult for us to put into practice the discoveries that we’re making in this workshop." 

Get everyone on board
The promotion of community-wide change in attitudes and practices is vital. In some places, reforming traditional councils and local decision-making bodies is a cornerstone of securing support for cultural changes regarding rights to nutritious and sufficient food for all. Actions include: 

  • developing community-based awareness campaigns aimed at mobilising policy makers, media, and other opinion formers 
  • involving communities in nutrition assessments, defining health and nutrition priorities, planning interventions, and monitoring and evaluation. 

Create multidisciplinary teams
Some approaches to team building are outlined below. 

  • Training clinic staff, community nutritionists, and extension workers on the gender dimensions of health and nutrition ensures they understand men’s roles and responsibilities and ways to get men on board. 
  • Training rural advisory services (livestock, fish, crops) and input providers on how to include nutrition advice in their work helps farmers create a farm capable of providing healthy and sufficient food. Data obtained from the IDDS and HDDS can help guide this work. 
  • Involve behavioural change specialists where possible. 

BOX 3: Committements and trust

CARE Benin: "At the end of each meeting, members make small commitments to try a new behaviour or speak to someone about what they learned. Reviewing these small commitments at each meeting facilitates peer learning, helps reinforce new behaviours, and supports group members." 

GIZ Bangladesh: "First we conduct gender training with influential community leaders. We then work with men, including training on improved agricultural inputs, developing their understanding, and showing this is about the betterment of themselves and their families. Trust is won once they see the impact of the changes they are making and they become open to bigger ideas. We build on traditional behaviours, make sure our messages are simple, and use many methods including cooking demonstrations, games, entertainment, educational materials, and role-plays." 

Be innovative
Seek out new partners and methodologies. Repeat the message in many different ways in different groups, and tailor the message to the target group. Keep the message simple, do-able, and fun. Some projects work through village savings and loans associations because men are often interested in making money. Some value-chain projects include farm planning for good nutrition.

Share knowledge
Right from the start, share lessons with people and organisations from community, to national, to global level. This builds critical mass for change and ensures the best methods are taken to scale quickly.

  • For men and other primary target groups: produce learning aids, talking books, education modules, and handouts. Develop visual tools as well as materials written in local languages.
  • For external stakeholders (partners, research institutions, and donors) and internal stakeholders (programme staff): participate in workshops and conferences; share evaluation reports; prepare ‘how to’ notes; post blogs, etc.

BOX 4: Lessons from Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh

USAID Kyrgyzstan: "We contract with agriculture service providers to provide training to farmers (many of whom are male) on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); agricultural WASH; and diet diversity. We have a home budgeting training day for spouses to learn together about ensuring equitable spending decisions. A diet diversity session during the training day delivers nutrition messages." 

GIZ Bangladesh: "Men, as key rice farmers, receive training on application of zinc foliar fertilisers to increase the zinc content of rice grains. The training includes messages on crop and human nutrition, and overall understanding of zinc’s dietary function." 

Capacities required

All partners must have a good knowledge of the target areas (agroecological, sociocultural, political) and they should be able to identify, and work positively with, local knowledge. We recommend building on the methodologies and lessons learned developed by the men’s movements for gender equality in various countries. As the project progresses, the skills of the ever-increasing presence of gender-sensitive men in the community should be built upon. 

Facilitators need experience in enabling participatory, bottom-up development processes. They need to be enthusiastic and believe in men’s ability to change. They should be committed to open dialogue and learning based on respect and understanding for members of the community. Facilitators, particularly male facilitators, must be able to ‘walk the talk’ and reject the benefits conferred upon them by virtue of their gender.