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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Changing the discourse between men on gender equality

Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson ávarpar allsherjarþing SÞ

During his UN General Assembly address earlier this week, Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson announced the Barbershop Conference in January 2015, an initiative that Iceland has taken with Suriname. The aim is to activate men and boys in the fight for gender equality. Iceland is at the forefront of the international debate on gender equality and has put a special emphasis on this in international fora such as the UN.

“We continue to experience that when discussing gender equality, especially in international fora, women speak with other women about the hugely important issue of gender equality. This affects all of us, irrespective of gender, age and race. Men cannot dismiss gender equality as an issue for women alone. We have to engage in this important debate and I find it crucial to engage men and boys in the fight for gender equality for the benefit of all of society. Gender equality must not be seen as exclusively a women's issue . Men are not merely the problem but also part and parcel of the solution,” says Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.

Iceland and Suriname have been working to advance gender equality at the United Nations and have formed a friends group of close to 50 states on the importance of celebrating the Beijing platform on gender equality. In 2015 20 years will have passed since it was adopted.

The Barbershop conference that will take place at the United Nations in New York on 14-15 January will be Iceland's and Suriname's contribution to activating men and boys in the fight for gender equality. It will build upon the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium to take place in India in November this year bringing together researchers and practitioners, advocates and activists and government representatives. The Barbershop Conference will also be the countries' contribution to the Beijing+20 campaign and to the HeforShe campaign that was recently launched by the world-famous actress Emma Watson.

“It is our hope that this conference will contribute to changing stereotyped roles of women and men, as has been stressed so effectively in the HeforShe campaign. I want to encourage all men to sign up to this campaign and show their support in action,” says Foreign Minister Sveinsson.

The Barbershop theme is to highlight that there are places where men come together with other men and discuss, among other things, women. It is in such environments that the stereotyped roles of women and men are reinforced and the very place where these stereotypes can be changed.

The January Barbershop Conference is intended to bring to the table Politicians, experts, diplomatic representatives and the global civil society to discuss ways of engaging men and boys on gender equality.

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