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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.

What have been the outcomes of this project?

Respectful Communities used surveys to internally evaluate participants’ knowledge pre- and post project. The internal evaluation revealed that:

  • 100% stated they were familiar with the concept of multiple masculinities (16.6% pre-survey).
  • 100% stated they were familiar with the link between gender equity and gender-based violence (66.6% pre-survey).
  • 100% stated they were familiar with active bystander strategies and intervention (50% pre-survey).
  • 100% stated they were familiar with the concept of accountability to women’s rights (66.6% pre-survey).

Respectful Communities was also fortunate to have Monash University researchers conduct an VicHealth funded evaluation of the project. The evaluation report is expected to be published soon.

Since the piloting of the project in 2020, Respectful Communities has received enquiries from students regarding the next phase of the project and student groups have indicated a keen desire to promote the project within their networks. Respectful Communities has also received requests from student groups for smaller bespoke masculinities presentations to expand knowledge and understanding of gender issues among students.

Monash University will be running the project for a second time in 2022, piloting face-to-face delivery. This will again be internally evaluated to measure impact, and to contrast against results of the online delivered program.