Up to 400 people participated in the two-day gender equality Barbershop Conference at the United Nations in New York this week. The conference was an initiative by Iceland and Suriname which aimed to change the way men talk about gender equality and engage themselves.
At his address yesterday, Icelandic Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson emphasized the importance of men taking part in the discussion on gender equality and on eliminating gender-based violence.
“We are convinced that we will not eliminate violence against women or achieve gender equality unless we get men involved. This means getting men to discuss frankly with each other how to achieve gender equality. It means getting men to talk together about violence against women—to recognize that one third of women will be victims at some time during their lives—that means, potentially, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our wives and partners. And we need to be frank about the fact that in 95 percent of cases, violence against women is committed by men. Men should therefore become active agents of change and part of the solution,” Gunnar said.
The youngest speaker at the event was 13-year-old Max Bryant, who said: “I am here because I think girls should have the same opportunities as boys. I hope that we can change boys’ perspectives today so that when I am an adult we will no longer need to hold a barbershop conference.”
Deputy Secretary General of the UN Jan Eliasson also attended the event, as did former professional footballer Donald McPherson, Sweden’s Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikström and rapper Kyle ‘Guante’ Tran Myhre. Former President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was among those to address the meeting via video. Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka gave the closing speech.
The idea of organizing a Barbershop Conference in New York was launched during a speech by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Suriname Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Winston Lackin at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014.
The conference also aligned with the HeForShe movement, which engages men and boys as advocates for gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights.