Between 2018 and 2020 Women without Borders implemented the project ‘Men and Migration: Raising Awareness in the Family and Public Spheres’ in Austria, funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care, and Consumer Protection. Three material packages were created for use in boys’ and men’s work with a focus on the challenges that boys and men with a migration background are confronted with in everyday life. The final product was three short films: “The Austrians and the Other Foreigners”, “Respect Is not a One-Way Street” and “Two Homes – Two Worlds”.
The project „Men and Migration: Raising Awareness in the Family and Public Spheres” was implemented by Women without Borders (WwB) between September 2018 and October 2020 thanks to the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care, and Consumer Protection. The goal was to create three material packages for use in boys’ and men’s work, with a focus on the challenges that boys and men with a migration background face in everyday life.
In order to promote problem- and solution-oriented work among the male target group and to do justice to the diversity of life situations, the following target groups were chosen: male adolescents, fathers, and young men. Three short films between 8-10 minutes long, along with accompanying materials, were chosen as central didactic units for work with the target groups.
At the beginning of the project, the core areas of focus were as follows:
- What challenges do the three target groups face?
- What worries and fears do they have?
- Which topics are considered taboo by the target groups?
- Are there typical conflict scenarios within and outside the family?
- How are conflicts dealt with?
- Which specific goals are to be achieved with the films and accompanying materials?
- What requirements does this place on the films and accompany materials?
A needs assessment was conducted during the first phase of the project to answer these questions. Interviews with experts from the education, youth, and social work sectors, as well as focus group discussions with male adolescents, young men, and fathers further explored the topics that boys and men are challenged by in their everyday lives, but that often remain unreflected, unspoken, and thus unaddressed. At the same time, the needs assessment served to align the cinematic didactical requirements with the material packages.
Short versions of the three films are included below, along with an explanation of the target group and themes of each. Below these films is an outline of the results of the project and how these should impact future vision of the topic.
Film 1: “The Austrians and the other Foreigners”
Target group: The film and accompanying material were developed with a focus on male adolescents with a migration history. The film offers an insight into the lives of young people, making it particularly suitable for work in schools as well as parental work.
Themes of the film:
- Marginalisation and everyday racism
- Masculinities – honour – role framework
- Experiences of violence within and outside the family
Film 2: “Fathers and Parenting – Respect is not a One-Way Street”
Target group: The film and accompanying material were designed with a focus on fathers with a migration history. The film shows the facets of ‘being a father’, from the perspective of both fathers themselves and young people. Therefore, it offers a good starting point for dialogue with adolescents.
Themes of the film:
- Dealing with changing father roles
- ‘Being a father’ as a side issue on the male agenda
- Violence in the family
Film 3: “Two Homes – Two Worlds”
Target group: The film and accompanying material were developed with a focus on young men with migration or refugee histories. Young men who are in the process of shaping their personal life between adolescence and adulthood reflect on their life to date, their experiences, and their own history. This includes life in the family as well as “out there” in society. Young men take on an important mediating role. Their own youth and their role as children are still with them, but at the same time they are already looking ahead and have wishes, ideas, and demands for their own future role as fathers. As such, the film can be used in the segments youth and men’s work.
Themes of the film:
- War and refugee experience as a taboo topic within and outside the family
- Positive and negative connotations of the concept of honour
- Role models, gender equality, and differing expectations of boys and girls
This work with young boys, young men, and fathers made clear that the role of the father in its entirety remains largely unrecognised. At the same time, it also clearly shows how impactful the relationship with one’s father, as well as his absence, can be. It is therefore essential to stimulate thought and reflection processes among fathers, but especially among young boys and men, in order to break the prevailing cycle of “my father did it that way, too.” This should apply in particular to the understanding of masculinity and domestic violence.
Contrary to the frequently cited argument that men are not willing to talk about upbringing, family, and sensitive topics, the project shows that men are quite willing to address these topics. However, it requires appropriate settings, including places where they can let their masks fall and express their concerns and fears. It certainly takes patience to create these spaces and build trust, but the idea that boys and men don’t want this can no longer be used as an excuse.