HeForShe was launched in 2014 as a United Nations campaign working toward gender equality by encouraging men and boys to join the fight. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, commonly referred to as UN Women, is the founding entity for this campaign. In July 2014, UN Women appointed Emma Watson, most famously known from the Harry Potter franchise, as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. They recognized her humanitarian work in Bangladesh and Zambia, as well as her Ambassadorship for Camfed International, an organization to help educate girls in rural African countries.
The central idea to the HeForShe campaign is that gender equality is an issue that affects both men and women alike, and that the fight will never be won unless both men and women are working toward equality of the sexes. Emma Watson helped to launch this campaign by giving a moving speech regarding feminism and gender inequality at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2014. In her speech, Watson encouraged men and boys to become more knowledgeable about gender issues by nothing that men can and do suffer from gender inequality, as well. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho,’” said Emma. “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”
This campaign spread fast through social media, by using the hashtag ‘#HeForShe’ as a way to signal their support and participation in this fight. Many celebrities and public figures quickly showed their support for this campaign, including President Barack Obama, Kiefer Sutherland, Harry Styles, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mark Ruffalo, Jared Leto, Sophia Bush, Kerry Washington, Peter Gallagher and many more.
Many women and men believe in equality of the sexes but shy away from using the word “feminism.” The unpopularity of the word has caused many to distance themselves from association even if they believe in feminism. This is most prominent when female celebrities or public figures are interviewed and asked if they would call themselves feminists; often times, they do not, instead citing their belief in equality of the sexes and saying they do not believe it should be a “man vs. woman” thing. However, feminism is simply “the social, political and economic equality of women and men.” In its simplest form, feminism believes women should have the same advantages, opportunities and treatment as men.
In 2015, UN Women launched the HeForShe IMPACT 10X10X10 Initiative at the World Economic Forum. This initiative is an effort “that aims to engage governments, corporations and universities as instruments of change positioned within some of the communities that most need to address deficiencies in women’s empowerment and gender equality and that will have the greatest capacity to make and influence these changes.” At this conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed his support for gender equality by saying “The HeForShe campaign is based on solidarity and a different insignt into sustainability. It ‘flips the script’ so that men speak out for what we all know is right.”
Currently, the HeForShe movement has seen 220,839 men around the globe take a stand for gender equality. For more information about this movement, visit www.heforshe.org
Written by Caucus Intern Samantha Shapiro