Fellow citizens and residents, today I’m here to greet you on the occasion of International Men’s Day which is observed globally each year on November 19th. International Men’s Day is set aside to bring a closer focus on improving gender relations by promoting positive expressions of masculinity and highlighting male role models. We use the opportunity to promote men’s health and to celebrate the achievements and sacrifices of our men and boys who honour the importance of building positive attitudes and behaviours in contemporary society

The 2022 international theme for Men’s Day is “Helping Men and boys” This theme recognizes the need to support nurturing expressions of masculinity which can help in encouraging boys and men to be expressive, more caring and to be fully engaged in all aspects of domestic and social life.

Our local theme for this year is tagged as “Gender Equality: The Role of our men and boys in building and maintaining positive relationships”. Our local theme prioritizes positive relationship building as a primary aspect of shifting violent realities around domestic and gender relations.

Both local and international themes are suitable and necessary in the context of situations that we face in our country and by extension the entire world today.

By helping men and boys, we are all encouraged to engage with the men and boys in our own lives by creating safe spaces and giving them the tools that help them to grow emotionally, economically and socially to change harmful attitudes and ways of being around what it means to be a man and male leader.

Our local theme highlighting The Role of our men and boys in building and maintaining positive relationships focuses on three core areas:

First, it encourages healthy and positive relationship building between men and their female counterparts in their homes, at work, at school, during social events and in our communities. To cultivate healthy relations between men and women, we need men to value women equally, to approach each other with gentle kindness and respect and to be more collaborative in sharing the responsibilities in domestic and professional life. Ultimately, positive relationship building is about men and women becoming better allies. It is about men and women creating a culture of mutual respect and open communication with each other.

It is evident that men are essential to the journey towards gender equality. Promoting and supporting better and healthier relationships between men and women must be supported as a key step towards greater understanding and connection between genders.

The second core area of our local theme is Relationship building with fellow men who are friends, brethren, and brothers. Research suggests that healthy and positive male-to-male friendships and brotherhood help our men and boys to become more self-confident and less insecure, to feel connected and to have a sense of belonging and to improve/maintain their mental health. With strong, healthy and positive male friendships, men and boys have a lower risk for depression, suicide, dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, substance use, and gang membership.

Men, the truth is, living your life as a one-man show isn’t just sad, it’s scary. Unfortunately, the suicide rate for older men is much higher than any other demographic or age. So maintaining friendships and talking to your fellow peers and male friends regularly are key to living a rich and fulfilling life. Far too often, men end up alone due to the paranoia of being seen as soft or weak for displaying any kind of vulnerability. This isn’t the case. No matter what you’re doing, we all need friends who share similar interests and who allow us to be fully human. So we’re encouraging our men to seek out connections with other men through work, church, sports clubs, volunteer groups, domino events or community corner spots where men usually congregate. If you haven’t already, try to make a new male friend today.

Finally, building stronger relationships between men and their children as well as increasing mentor-mentee relationships between men and boys is the third core area of focus for our local international men’s day theme. The type of relationship that fathers have with their children affects children’s cognitive and social development.

Where involved and active father figures are absent in a boy child’s life, mentors become even more necessary to support healthy development and growth. Mentorship is found to be impactful at influencing behaviour change and life choices among at-risk children and youth in particular. The Department of Gender Affairs currently coordinates an ongoing Boys Mentorship programme in different communities and we are always in need of male volunteers to sign up as mentors. Men are welcome and encouraged to invest some time into mentoring a young boy in our communities today. We must build better relationship with our male children and youth to inspire the development of nurturing masculinity and to encourage, educate and empower them to grow into the stable confident leaders and caring providers that our society longs for and desires.

In closing, I must express thanks and encourage all of us to honour the leading men who already exist in our lives and society. As I mentioned, international men’s day is also just as much about recognizing the upstanding men in our communities who actively work to set a positive example for our children and families. In fact, as part of the department’s activities, throughout the month of November, men in St. Kitts and in Nevis have been recognized, celebrated and awarded for their work and leadership in various areas of community and social development. The annual International Men’s Day Awards would have awarded 8 men for their contributions as male role models and leaders on a national level. To our current and past awardees, congratulations and thank you for being a positive example in our communities! Also, recognizing that there are unsung male heroes among us, I want to encourage all of us to celebrate and honour the positive men we engage with every day. This is one of the ways we can continue to help men and boys in our efforts to achieve gender equity. The Department of Gender Affairs looks forward to creating opportunities to engage men in talks about solutions to gender-based violence, learning about male perspectives on gender equality, and understanding what healthy and nurturing masculinity means to them and the challenges they may face in our evolving and rapidly changing society.

Happy International Men’s Day and thank you for listening.