Keynote Speaker – Michael Kaufman

Michael Kaufman – White Ribbon Campaign – ending violence against women – “all women on the planet deserve better”

The title of Michael Kaufman’s passionate speech and presentation was “In Our Lifetimes – Engaging men for gender equality and ending men’s violence”. Men’s silence has a been a massive problem in gender equality campaigns – there is progress on women’s equality and ending violence against women but with 8000 years of male dominance it takes time to make the transformational changes needed for the future of humankind worldwide.

Michael was a founder of the White Ribbon Campaign in 1991 when he realised that we are all bombarded from birth with ideas and ideals of what defines manhood and humankind in masculine terms – at the birth of his son the midwife adopted a low tone to her voice and said “what a strong little fellow”…. and so begins the behaviour changes towards the gender of everyone – even tiny babies.

His presentation included masses of images of male domination in advertising including the “supersizing masculinity” images where male images have become stronger meaning manhood is harder to live up to without showing weakness or fear. He said “WE MUST ENGAGE MEN TO END GENDER INEEQUALITY & VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN it is a problem for the whole world’s population not just a problem for half of us…” Workplaces must be equal, respectful and non-violent ( there are programmes for this on his website). Men are encouraged to #CountMeIn and follow men-care.org to learn how to transform their lives and have the opportunity to develop empathy. Men’s violence is often a combination of dominance and the insecurity of not bring able to live up to expectations.

He answered some great questions from the floor and ended with a story about why men should speak out against violence to women – “BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO”. He said “feminism is the greatest gift men have ever had – it frees them to be the men they want to be – redefining the world of equality and justice”.

I was fortunate enough to hear Michael Kaufman speak in 2015 at the Soroptimist International Convention in Istanbul again he held the audience in the palm of his hand – if you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak don’t miss out – he is truly inspirational – he stepped up and is leading the way to make a world better for everyone – he encourages all the world to stand together not just in the “16 Days to End Gender Violence” but always.

Tweet using @GenderEQ @WhiteRibbon_UK.

Find out more about Michael Kaufman here.

Jane Slatter, SI St Albans & District