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LOOKING FORWARD: Marcos Nascimento, Brazil

Marcos Nascimento's work has taken him to some of Rio's toughest neighborhoods, where he meets with and counsels violent gang members. His mission: to create agents of gender equality and peaceful coexistence from these seemingly unlikeliest of young men.

"We have worked with women to promote gender equality for the past 30 years," he says. "But that is not enough."

Nascimento is a psychologist and former executive director of Instituto Promundo, a Rio De Janeiro-based organization seeking to end violence against women and children. He also runs MenEngage Alliance, a network of 400 global non-governmental organizations trying to bring men into the struggle for gender equality.

Recruiting men to work for gender equality was not Nascimento's original career ambition, however. His first degree was in engineering. It was while working at a construction site that his interest in gender relations was piqued. "The way they interacted and spoke to women, as if they were objects of consumption, it bothered me a lot." He quit his job and went back to school to study psychology. Aggressive or violent behavior isn't innate, Nascimento says. It's learned behavior. Boys who are treated violently, exposed to violence in their homes and communities or have strained relationships with their families tend to be more violent.

Nascimento's work shows that, because violence is learned, it can also be unlearned. A landmark 2007 report, published jointly by Promundo and the World Health Organization, concluded that men and boys will modify their attitudes about violence if given a chance to reflect on the meaning of their actions. The most effective programs, according to the study, are expert-moderated forums where boys and men are asked to confront the effect their behavior has on their loved ones, as well as their overall definitions of masculinity and manhood.

"In the past, all discussions [about gender violence] were directed at women," Nascimento says. "Our goal is to show how men can be allies in promoting a new culture."


If men are part of the problem, they must also be part of the solution.

- Marcos Nascimento

SOURCES: 1 United Nations Population Fund. 2009 Annual Report. 2 Solange Azevedo, "Marcos Nascimento," Época, October 4, 2009. 3 United Nations Population Fund, Promundo and MenEngage. Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality and Health, 2010. 4 Promundo, From Violence To Peaceful Coexistence, 2010. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marcos Nascimento.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marcos Nascimento