Here at The Men’s Network in Brighton & Hove we believe the world would benefit enormously from a Men’s Network in every town, city and region. That may be quite a distant goal right now but as we are currently going through the process of becoming a charity, we have be reviewing why we exist and wanted to share with you what it is The Men’s Network is out to achieve.
Our vision has always been to create a world where every man, woman, girl and boy can fulfill their greatest potential. And to help us on that journey we have four key objectives:
1. Improving male health and wellbeing by working with organisations, communities, families and individuals to help men and boys live, longer happier healthier lives.
2. To give boys the best possible start in life by working with organisations, communities, families and individuals in ways that helps boys to develop their skills, capacities and capabilities.
3. To make society safe by working with organisations, communities, families and individuals in ways that keeps men and boys safe from the impact of risky or offending behaviour.
4. To support fathers at every stage of fatherhood by working with organisations, communities, families and individuals in ways that help fathers and other male role models to be a contribution to the children in their lives.
Below is an explanation of why we believe these four objectives are important.
IMPROVING MALE HEALTH
One of our partners in the UK is the national charity The Men’s Health Forum which states that men’s health is unnecessarily poor with 40% of men in the UK dying prematurely. The Men’s Health Forum has provided the secretariat to an All Party Parliamentary Group on Men’s Health which has been focusing on issues relating to men’s health inequalities since 2001.
Another national charity which responds to the health inequalities that men experience is Mind UK. In 2009 the CEO of Mind, Paul Farmer, stated that the lack of a national mental health strategy for men is a “major health inequality”.
Locally, the NHS has welcomed us as a partner and invited us to sit on its Equalities Impact Assessment panel to help it consider issues where men may have been discriminated against on the grounds of their gender.
We also work with health services where men are under-represented as service users to help improve men’s access to these services and chair a citywide partnership of public and private sector bodies committed to Improving Men’s Health Through Sport (eg using sports stadia to promote men’s health campaigns).
Our aim is to help those committed to improving men and boys’ health in the city to identify areas of need and design develop and deliver solutions to address those needs. This is particularly important as local health strategies have tended to exclude men as a distinct group with specific needs.
As the Brighton & Hove NHS Manager for Equality and Diversity, Phil Seddon, said:
“Ironically a largely male led society has created structures that don’t meet men’s needs because it hasn’t found itself able to acknowledge what those needs might be”.
GIVING EVERY BOY THE BEST POSSIBLE START IN LIFE
The European Commission’s Strategy For Equality Between Women and Men (2010-2015), states that “gender equality needs the active contribution, support and participation of men and policies should address gender-related inequalities that affect boys and men such as literacy rates”.
According to the Every Child A Reader Trust, boys are twice as likely to be poor readers as girls and it is common knowledge that boys underperform girls at every stage of school and are now outnumbered by girls at university. This is particularly concerning as poor literacy is linked to a broad range of poor outcomes in later life in areas such as health, income and risk of offending.
The UK’s Equality Strategy highlights school exclusion as an equality issue in relation to Black Caribbean pupils who are three times more likely to be permanently excluded than the school population as a whole.
Locally, boys are four times more likely than girls to be excluded from school and – as with poor literacy – being excluded is linked to a broad range of poor outcomes in later life in areas such as health, income and risk of offending.
Parenting is now recognized as an equality issue in the UK with the Government committing to encourage shared parenting “from the earliest stage of pregnancy” in its 2010 Equality Strategy.
Locally, our city’s parenting strategy recognizes that fathers are under-represented across all universal services that provide support to family life.
The national charity, the Fatherhood Institute, works to change these “supports to family life” so that the caring role of fathers and father-figures is recognised and strongly supported. The Institute says it wants public services to encourage and enable fathers to invest more of their time and energy in the direct care of their children by making all health, education, family and children’s services to be “father-inclusive” by supporting fathers in their caring roles as seriously as they currently support mothers.
In addition, we also seek to provide support to separated and separating fathers –in similar ways to the national charity Families Need Fathers – which aims to help parents stay fully involved in their children’s lives after separation, thus encouraging shared parenting even when parents are no longer together – which is something that separated dads in the UK are 3 times less likely than separated dads in Sweden to be able to do – according to the Fatherhood Institute’s 2010 Family Fairness Index.
KEEPING MEN AND BOYS SAFE
According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), International human rights agreements defend the right to life. This means the state has a positive duty to protect people from unlawful killing and death through negligence. The evidence from the EHRC’s How Fair Is Britain Report suggests that in many areas the state discharges that duty towards men less effectively than it does towards women.
- Three quarters of suicide victims of male, with 12 men killing themselves every day
- 96% of people who die at work are men, with 10 men dying at work every month
- Men are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be killed accounting for 70% of homicide victims are men.
- Men are 50% more likely to be killed by someone they know
- 88% of people killed by a stranger are men
- Men are the victims of two-thirds of violent incidents
- Men are four times more likely to be a victim of stranger violence
- Men are twice as likely to be a victim of acquaintance violence
- Three quarters of the 2,000 drivers, passengers and pedestrians who die in road traffic accidents every year are men
- Men are at greatest risk of offending and account for the majority of the prison population
- Men are greatest risk of homelessness and account for the majority of rough sleepers
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO SOCIETY OF ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES
We believe that if we can take action which improves boys’ educational outcomes and enables them to live longer, happier, healthier lives – if we can help more fathers and other male role models be more involved in raising boys and girls – and if we can keep more men and boys safe in a way that keeps everyone safe – then all men, women, boys and girls will be living in a society where we all have more opportunities to live long, happy, safe, successful lives.
And that’s why, in the future, we’d love to see Men’s Networks that are both inclusive and solution focussed, springing up all over the globe.