| Author: Rachel Ploem | Function: Advisor on Gender & SRHR

#MeToo: Challenge Accepted!

On 2 November we celebrated fifty years of Rutgers’ work in upholding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people, in the Netherlands and around the world. Rutgers’ 50th anniversary coincided with a global outcry against sexual violence, set off by the #MeToo campaign. As Rutgers revisited its work over the years, my thoughts brought me back to a meeting ten years ago. A meeting that imparted valuable lessons, and reshaped Rutgers’ strategies to end sexual violence.

For us to end violence against women definitively, it’s time to start working with men, husbands and partners of survivors of violence,” said our partners in Indonesia and South Africa ten years ago.

And they were right! After all, sexual and gender-based violence occurs within relationships. Preventing all forms of violence meant reforming relationships into healthy, loving and respectful ones.

And, addressing harmful patriarchal values and power inequalities that perpetuate this violence: with girls and women, and this time, with boys and men as well!

And so was born a new approach to Rutgers’ strategies. 



A New Approach to Our Development Strategies

At the suggestion of our partners, we searched for ways to bring young and adult men in the gender-power conversation. The Toolkit for Men; Counselling Men to End Intimate Partner Violence was among our first materials to embody this new approach.

With Promundo we pitched this new approach to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and won ourselves an ally!

  • The Ministry-supported MenCare+ (2013 – 2015) international programme involved young men and fathers in SRHR, pre-, and post-natal care. Within the programme, we did not just develop “better partners in care,” but also showed (young) men how they could benefit from these new caring arrangements: as individuals, friends, partners, fathers, leaders etc. 
  • A larger Ministry-funded international consortium programme followed: Prevention+: Men and Women Ending GBV (2016-2020). In partnership with Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice, the Men Engage Alliance, and country-based partners in Indonesia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Lebanon and Uganda, we are co-creating safe spaces to free individuals, communities, institutions and governments from restrictive gender and sexual norms. We are mobilising communities through joint boys-girls, and parents’ clubs to break down gender stereotypes. We are working with and training religious leaders and duty bearers (e.g., local government, police force, etc.) to champion our messages of equality. We are supporting the formulation of policies and legislation to bring young and adult men in the gender equality conversation. 

In the Netherlands and Within Europe

The lessons we learnt from our partners also influenced our strategies in the Netherlands, and within Europe. Existing programmes (e.g., Respect Limits, Make a Move) to effect behavioral change amongst young and adult men, were strengthened by our new initiatives: Beat the Macho/Lef Gozers, and the Paternity Leave Campaign

Recently, we joined our partners in the Netherlands: Bernard van Leer, WomenInc, Save the Children, Emancipator, Trade Union, etc., in celebrating the increase of paternity leave rights from two days to six weeks!  Through our joint efforts and sustained campaigning, by 2019, all new fathers in the country will be entitled to paid leaves: 100% for the first five days, followed by 70% for five weeks (on the condition that leaves are taken within six months from the birth of a child). 


Since #MeToo, the global outcry against sexual violence continues. It is not, however, something that came “out of the blue”. It is preceded by decades of hard work by many people, women’s rights/VAW, gender justice, SRHR, and LGBTQI organisations and networks, institutions, movements, courageous donors, etc.  

What we are seeing right now is a gradual, but steady shift in mindsets. We are not only saying NO to a culture of sexual violence and harassment: young and adult men are also starting to challenge the norms that perpetuate violence and traditional ideas of what it means to be a man. 

Indeed, all these positive developments are now coinciding with 50 years of Rutgers. Although much more needs to be undertaken, let us take a moment to celebrate our wins. From there, let us expand our strategies to once and for all end sexual violence. Do you accept the challenge?

*#MeToo representation image c/o womenmarch/Twitter

Rachel Ploem Advisor on Gender & SRHR Go to bio