HeForShe founder Elizabeth Nyamayaro on the importance of including men in the gender equality conversation

The Editors
·2-min read
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

When, in 2014, Elizabeth Nyamayaro first pitched the concept of HeForShe - a gender equality movement that actively invited and encouraged men to be part of the conversation - she was met with backlash from critics and allies alike.

"In my heart I had this strong conviction that it was the right approach," she said, during our inaugural Evening with Harper's Bazaar in celebration of International Women's Day. "We are all in this together and we have to find a way through as a collective... If men are part of the problem then they have to be part of the solution."

Her words seem ever more pertinent in the wake of the tragic abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in south London, a devastating event which hit home for so many and prompted an international conversation about male violence against women.

"I know there’s still this conversation of, ‘Why are we engaging men?’ but at the end of the day, why are we putting all the responsibility on the woman to say ‘Don’t rape me’? The man should just know not to rape a woman," Nyamayaro says. "But he’s not going to know that unless we engage him in a conversation and he understands the impact of his actions, not just on the woman but on society at large. Because when women are wounded, society is wounded. And that for me… Even when, as you said, there was so much push back, I just knew that we had to find a way. "

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

HeForShe eventually launched to phenomenal success, thanks in no small part to support from Emma Watson, who joined Nyamayaro as a launch partner. The actress gave a moving, impassioned speech at the United Nations in which she called for men everywhere to pledge their support.

Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY - Getty Images
Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY - Getty Images

"We're all connected; what impacts one of us will eventually impact all of us in various ways. These were the values I was raised on," Nyamayaro says. "So I knew that we had to find an inclusive way of addressing gender equality.

"As long as the pursuit of equality remains a struggle between women and men, no one wins."

Watch an extract from her conversation in the video above.

The full conversation and Evening with Harper's Bazaar, including additional special guests Iman and Maria Grazia Chiuri, can be watched on demand until 31 March.

You Might Also Like