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Boys will be boys? #3

Being a man is not easy, is it? Always working hard, acting tough and keeping your emotions to yourself at the same time… Rutgers is keen to show boys and men alike that it really does not have to be this way. That one can forge caring relationships based on an equal footing, not only in the Netherlands but elsewhere in the world too. We are not simply calling for cultural change, but are now actually actively pursuing it.

Among the methods that we apply in this regard is the international Prevention+ programme. Its aim is to explain to young men in Rwanda, Uganda, Indonesia and Pakistan that things can also be done differently. That you can break away from the current role models of the man as the breadwinner and the woman as a caring mother. We therefore endeavour to involve boys and men in both curbing gender-based violence and improving women’s economic status. Prevention+ is the follow-up of the MenCare+ programme, which is sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Indonesian father and child (Mencare+)
Indonesian father and child (Credits: Mencare+)

The issue of involving men in the pursuit of women’s rights was also addressed during a major international forum held in Brazil. Rutgers was present to make the case in favour of the involvement of men in preventing domestic violence.

Fathers in all of the Netherlands’ neighbouring countries are entitled to at least fourteen weeks of paid paternity leave, while those in the Netherlands itself get only two days.


Involved fathers

Rutgers is firmly in favour of cultural change, not only among employers and in political circles, but also with a view to increasing fathers’ own sense of involvement. Children of caring fathers perform better in the field of education, are healthier and are less likely to end up in trouble. Caring fathers themselves live longer, have fewer health issues and are happier.

“Despite the fact that we in the Netherlands consider ourselves progressive, it actually remains the case – despite having experienced countless waves of emancipation – that the woman looks after the children while the man earns a living.’’

Renske Keizer (The Netherlands’ first Professor on Fatherhood)

Case in favour of paternity leave

Rutgers calls for the introduction of extended paternity leave, from which everyone would benefit: children, women, men, employers and society at large. This prompted us to compile a case in Dutch entitled ‘Vooruit met het vaderschapsverlof’ (Dutch), which numerous organisations have since endorsed and adopted to call for political debate on the topic.

68% of new fathers in the Netherlands are in favour of the extension of paid paternity leave. And while 60% of men in the Netherlands would like to spend more time with their families, they claim that it is simply not financially viable at present.


The extension of paid paternity leave became a topic in the run up to the Dutch general elections in 2016. It is now firmly embedded in the political agenda, and numerous political parties incorporated it in their election programmes. Lengthier paternity leave would be a step in the right direction, towards the more equal division of tasks between men and women.

(Credits: iStock)
(Credits: iStock)

An End to Daddy Days

Rutgers and De Balie organised a theme evening entitled ‘Nooit meer papadag’, which loosely translates as An End to Daddy Days and comprised a debate on the subject of involved fatherhood and paternity leave. The findings of a survey (Visies op Vaderschap (Dutch), or Visions of Fatherhood) held among 1,800 fathers were published and shared with administrators and politicians. These findings are clear cut. Fathers in the Netherlands are eager to become more involved with their children. It is now the turn of politicians and authorities to propose appropriate policy.

“I realised that I get a great deal more happiness from family life than I do at work.’’

Sahil Achahboun (On the platform

Going forward

Rutgers continues to lobby for political commitment to extended paternity leave. We also strive to involve fathers themselves in discussion, by means including the platform You might also like to consult our knowledge file (Dutch) on paternity leave.

Connecting with LEFgozers

Many boys struggle with their masculinity during adolescence. Being cool, belonging, and gaining the respect of peers are crucial issues in this regard. However, boys often feel lonely or misunderstood, too. They sometimes exhibit inappropriate behaviour: bullying LGBTs or sexual harassment. Their educational performance suffers as a result, while alcohol and substance abuse may become more common.

LEFgozers (Dutch), which loosely translates as Guys with Guts, comprises a series workshops designed to show that there are actually other alternatives. They closely examine both macho behaviour and peer pressure, while toying with more positive forms of masculinity.

“I finally got the chance to talk about things seriously here, without being judged for doing so.’’

Jordy (A participant in LEFgozers)

LEFgozers, an extension of the successful Beat the Macho campaign, is sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The workshops are also suitable for use as a stand-alone method in the field of youth social work or education. LEFgozers was developed in collaboration with Movisie, STI AIDS Netherlands and seven locale partner organisations.

“This method of connecting with boys is very much in keeping with our philosophy. It addresses issues including the prevention of sexual transgressive behaviour and combatting a negative attitude to homosexuality. It was entirely logical for us to invest in it.’’

Frieda de Groot (Youth Manager at De Schoor Foundation, Almere)

Do boys actually want to discuss masculinity and macho behaviour? The issue was the subject of a survey. And the conclusion? It is really quite difficult to resist the pressure to behave like a ‘real man’. If placed in a sufficiently safe environment, however, then boys are quite willing to talk about themselves, their insecurities, sexuality and girls. Read more about the survey (Dutch).

In 2015, musical duo MC Fit & Adje were inspired by the Beat the Macho campaign to cut the buzzing track entitled ‘Luister naar Jezelf’ (Dutch for Listen to Yourself). Thanx boyz!

Going forward

Rutgers endeavours to make young people sexually assertive. LEFgozers has proven effective in helping to prevent sexual harassment, as well as promoting both healthy sexual development and the acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs). The role of counsellors has proven crucial in this regard. And that was our motivation to develop this ‘training course for trainers’ (Dutch).

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