More than 90 countries around the world will celebrate International Men’s Day (IMD) this coming Sunday—November 19. Men, women, girls and boys, governments, and international and community organisations will mark this day, inaugurated in T&T in 1999 by The UWI lecturer Dr Jerome Teelucksingh.
According to India’s fintech company Bank Bazaar’s advocacy page: “IMD is observed to honour and celebrate the lives, accomplishments, and contributions of boys and men, especially those who have made significant contributions to the family, marriage, community, and country…”
Different countries celebrate IMD in different ways, mainly focusing on issues that have the most relevance in their national community.
Australia, according to the Australia Men’s Health Forum, went through various levels of consultations to propose their theme: Healthy Men, Healthy World.
The focus is multi-level, as they also proposed sub-themes to rally different constituencies, such as: Check in on a mate; Improving male health together; Healthy male role model, and Take action, stay healthy!
In India, according to bankkbazaar.com: “The celebrations were started in 2007 by Indian Men’s Advocate Uma Chulla. The idea behind that effort, was “to expose the shocking abuse that men face in the anti-male legal system of (India).”
Other topics for discussion, says the awareness page, include fatty changes in liver, and belly fat, which remain rising concerns for Indian men.
In the United Kingdom, according to ukmensday.org.uk, the team adopted three key themes for 2023 that can be used separately or combined as follows:
• Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys
• Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing
• Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity
As well, male suicide is a trending topic for discussion in the UK on IMD, because it is reported that men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women there. Among the suggested topics, therefore, this concern features prominently under the theme “Zero Male Suicide.”
As we prepare to mark the day, other issues that affect men and boys should become part of our focus for whatever forums we organise wherever we are.
These are some topics excerpted from other countries’ suggestion lists:
• Men’s health (including male cancers), shorter life expectancy, body image and workplace deaths—plus the health impact of COVID-19
• Male victims of violence and crime—for instance, bullying, sexual violence, gang violence, and, those coerced into criminal activity
• The challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers
• Discuss men’s as well as boys’ health—emotional/mental, physical, social, and spiritual
• Male victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse
• The negative portrayal of men, boys and fathers
• The challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education and work including attainment, re-training, stress, redundancy and unemployment
Among these issues, IMD, much like the Movember campaign, also seeks to raise awareness about men’s health in an effort to improve both men’s health-seeking and help-seeking behaviours. Men are reported in the literature as ineffective users of health services. Principally, men are less inclined to present themselves in primary care or for disease screening, and use these services less than women.
Women outlive men by an average of five years. The world average age of death, according to WorldData.info (2023), is 68.9 years for men and 73.9 years for women. The World Health Organization (2021) reported global life expectancy as 70.9 years for men as compared to 75.9 years for women. Much of this is attributed to women being better health seekers. Not much can be found in the literature about men’s health literacy in T&T but a 2020 study by Wills et al, (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) found that: “Men were concerned about, and accepted responsibility for their own health but social norms concerning sickness and masculinity were barriers to accessing health services.”
The researchers reported that of the 248 men who responded to the survey: “Almost one-third (31.5%) sought advice from a healthcare service when they were last sick because they were prompted to do so by their wife/partner or family.”
History of ID
Much of the online information says that in 1999, Dr Jerome Teelucksingh reinitialised the IMD project first conceived in 1991. Teelucksingh chose to honour his father, using his birthdate, November 19, for the observances. He also used that iconic day in T&T’s football history, as the country strived to qualify for the World Cup, an event which he says united our people, more than any other occasion.
Teelucksingh has promoted IMD as “not just a gendered day but a day where all issues affecting men and boys can be addressed” as we work towards “gender equality and attempt to remove the negative images and the stigma associated with men in our society.”