Mufti Ziauddin lives and works in a tribal village in Swat, a remote and mountainous area of Pakistan. Goran Lindberg is a police captain in Uppsala, Sweden. Jackson Katz is a Long Beach, Calif., filmmaker who has led training sessions for the U.S. Marine Corps.
All three belong to a growing international men's movement fighting for equality -- for women. In the United States, Canada, Sweden, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and parts of Africa, men in positions of leadership and power are stepping forward to advocate for women's causes.
Seeds for this emerging male activism were planted in October 1997 at a conference that has become known as the Katmandu Commitment. Orchestrated by Ruth Finney Hayward, a senior adviser to UNICEF and the former deputy director of its South Asia programs, the conference laid the framework for men like Ziauddin to accelerate their work locally.
"These men are out there," said Hayward, author of the soon-to-be-published book "Breaking the Earthen Ware Jar: Lessons from South Asia to End Violence Against Women and Girls." Hayward said: "I didn't know their names or their faces but I knew they were there. And I thought, what would happen if they were found and they were brought together?
"Though women have pointed out many of the problems and brought them into focus, how can they fight the powers of men who still control the economy, politics and society?" Hayward asked. "A better question still is: Why should women do it on their own? It is better to have partnerships with men."
Since 1997, there have been a number of conferences and activities held to encourage men to take more active roles in securing women's rights. More than 100 men from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh attended the Katmandu conference, and many of them still keep in touch with UNICEF in hopes of replicating similar gatherings in their towns and villages, according to Hayward.
In June, a record number of male delegates is expected to attend the United Nations' Beijing Plus 5 Conference, being held to review and assess the progress made by world governments in improving quality of life for women and girls. And several weeks ago, UNICEF and several nongovernmental agencies sponsored a men's conference in Namibia, adding an African dimension to the movement.
The Web is also helping bring these men together. James Lang, founder of the United Nations Men's Group for Gender Equality, has established a global Web site, http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/gender-equality.html, that enables men to strategize and discuss their efforts to secure gender equality in their own countries.
Lang's message to other men is simple and straightforward.
"One way to effect change in gender equality is to have men step up as leaders," said Lang, who works in the Poverty Division of the United Nations Development Program. "I have four sisters and no brothers. I was surrounded by and grew up with women. With the values system my father set up for me at an early age, I realized that if you love your family, you will fight for gender equality."