Iceland is set to host a UN conference in January. Nothing out of the ordinary, until you throw in the fact that this conference will invite only men to participate.
And again, the male-only bit might not actually be all that perplexing, given the trend of global meetings to take place in the absence of a fair representation of women. What is surprising, however, is the topic of conversation.
The conference is set to tackle the global issue of gender equality, and the overwhelming lack of it. Without including women.
This male-only conference is a direct result of the recent HeforShe campaign, which launched last week to significant public interest, in large part because of Emma Watson’s highly publicised speech on feminism. The HeforShe campaign seeks to get 100,000 men and boys involved in the issue of gender equality by 2015.
Iceland is a country that boasts the highest ranking on the Global Gender Gap Report for 2013 for gender equality in economic, health and other areas. Its foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, seems to think the conference is a great idea. According to AP, he told the UN General Assembly that they want to bring men and boys to the issue of gender equality “in a positive way”.
“Iceland and Suriname will convene a ‘Barbershop’ conference in January 2015 where men will discuss gender equality with other men, with a special focus on addressing violence against women. This will be a unique conference as it will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality.”
According to the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the 2015 deadline for the HeForShe campaign won’t be met with projections indicating that if things don’t change, achieving gender equality will take 95 years.
Sveinsson agrees, telling the UN that without the “full and equal participation of women in all spheres of society, including in decision-making, it will be impossible to make real and lasting progress in addressing sustainable development changes.”
What do you make of the all-male conference? Let us know below.