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Peer-facilitated approach to promoting gender equality

The Masculinities Project is a peer-facilitated program developed by the Respectful Communities team at Monash University.

A man stands outside a university building looking at a laptop

Project summary

The Masculinities Project has been designed using primary prevention methods with the aim of strengthening community participation in the prevention of gender-based violence. This approach targets social norms and attitudes by engaging, educating, and empowering students to promote change within their communities.

The Masculinities Project uses a wide range of activities to engage students in the community. The project consists of four components:

  • peer-facilitated mobiliser workshops
  • fortnightly public discussion groups
  • a healthy masculinities social norms marketing campaign
  • an annual event for staff and students.

The project was initially designed to be piloted on Monash University Clayton Campus. Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted this plan for a comprehensive, whole-of-institution project model. However, the project was adapted and in 2020 successfully delivered central components of the project: the mobiliser workshops, the social norms marketing material, and an end of year event through Zoom.

Mobiliser workshops

The mobiliser workshops focus on raising participants’ awareness and confidence in their ability to challenge the drivers of gender-based violence, and to promote gender equality among the Monash University community and their broader social groups.

This component involves a series of intensive weekly workshops (10 hours in total) at which a small group of students discuss dominant masculinity norms and are assisted in developing and role modelling healthier, non-conforming masculinities based on their own strengths.

Participants are tasked to reflect on their learning and co-design a social media campaign to be used in the future promotion of the program. At the end of the workshop series, students will have the knowledge and skills required to activate cultural change.

Other opportunities

Alongside the mobiliser workshops, the project delivers casual discussion catch-ups to engage men who are unable to commit to the intensive mobiliser workshops. Participants have the opportunity to join a small group of students for a one-hour session to talk about some of the key topics addressed in the mobiliser workshops.

The final component of the project includes delivering a final end of year event open to all Monash University staff and students. This event allows for the showcasing of the men’s experience in the Mobiliser Workshop Series to the broader Monash University community as well as providing the opportunity for all participants to enhance their learnings of masculinities through guest speakers who are invited to speak at the event.

What are the aims of the project?

Monash University’s Masculinities Project was developed with the aim to:

  • enhance the understanding of men’s role in gender-based violence prevention and gender equality
  • give students the opportunity to learn practical methods of challenging stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • provide a safe and supportive environment for male students to talk about masculinity, discuss societal attitudes and expectations, and explore ways of engaging in more healthy and non-conforming masculinities
  • acknowledge and encourage gender equitable attitudes in men and gender-diverse students
  • challenge the dominant forms and patterns of masculinity that drive gender-based violence.

Why a peer-facilitated approach?

After extensive research into the best approach to deliver the project, Respectful Communities chose to include a mixed gender facilitation team and a peer-to-peer facilitation approach.

This ensures the messages delivered in the mobiliser workshops and small group discussions are relevant and reliable. Peer facilitation also enables participants and facilitators to mutually support one another and appropriately address any questions or concerns their peers may have. Peers are also best informed in the right language and presentation style to positively engage each other on subjects of this kind.

Project outcomes

An evaluation of the Respectful Communities’ pilot of The Masculinities Project Mobiliser Program was conducted by VicHealth and published in October 2022. The evaluation report titled ‘Evaluating programs aimed at gender transformative work with men and boys: a multi-cohort, cross-sector investigation’ contained findings about the Mobiliser Program with the following themes:

  • Strength of peer-led, mixed gendered facilitation: Having mixed-gender peer facilitators involved in developing the program allowed for knowledgeable facilitation and for participants to build strong rapport.
  • Effective structuring of sessions: The scaffolded learning of the Mobiliser Program was praised for generating greater engagement. However, it was advised that the length of sessions should be reduced to better sustain engagement.
  • Preparedness of participants: The program was praised for engaging participants in discussion about the connection between masculinities and gender-based violence with a suggestion to adjust the program content to bring less engaged individuals into the learning environment.
  • Gender transformative approach: The active bystander component of the program was well regarded, and a poignant takeaway of the program by participants.
  • Increased understanding of equality: The Mobiliser Program achieved an attitudinal shift amongst participants in understanding the prevalence and impact of everyday sexism.

After the successful pilot of the program in 2020, Monash University ran a revised program in August – September 2022 that was completed by 13 participants. The program content was adjusted to have a greater emphasis on story-telling and active bystander strategies.

You can get in touch with the Masculinities Project and the Respectful Communities team at Monash University at respectful.communities@monash.edu.