Men Working to Stop Violence
When you ask him why he is committed to stopping gender-based violence, Abdul has a remarkable story. “A drunk man in my town was beating his wife. When I tried to stop him, he started beating me instead. Until that moment, I didn’t recognize how vulnerable women are. I had never felt that threatened, and I realized that women in my community live with that feeling all the time.”
It’s a refrain I hear from men all over the world—from close personal friends in the US to men in villages in Africa and Asia. Because they are less often the targets of gender-based-violence, most men don’t understand how GBV, or the threat of it, is a constant factor in women’s lives. Globally, one in three women is a survivor of GBV. In some communities, the number may be as high as 70%. The threat of GBV causes parents to pull their daughters out of school, is a primary reason for child marriage, and causes women everywhere to constrain their own mobility. I don’t walk alone in my neighborhood late at night, and I don’t know many women who do. For women in developing countries, restricted mobility isn’t just calling a cab at night; it might mean you can’t go buy groceries without a male escort. Men do experience GBV, but the numbers are much lower, and most men don’t talk about how the threat of violence constrains their lives.
But for men who do understand, the information can completely change their behavior. Abdul’s realization led him to join the Engaged Men Group in Kapilbastu, Nepal, where he works with other men to change their communities, starting in their own homes. The men talk about how to have more equitable power dynamics at home, how to share household chores, and how to be more involved in raising their children. They even awarded Ram Roy and Bisnu Maya Dube the “Model Couple” award for showing the best relationship and household. Ram Roy and Bisnu talk about how much better their lives are now that they are being equitable. Their household is more peaceful and more prosperous. The group hopes that as the rest of their community sees the rewards of non-violent and equitable relationships, the community will continue the change.
Helping men understand what violence means for women, for themselves, and for their communities, can lead to big changes. They are getting more involved in raising their children, and notice that their kids are less afraid of them than they used to be. They are working with their wives to grow and sell vegetables and raise the family income. The men in the Kapilbastu group are starting to refuse dowry from daughters-in-law so their sons start with more equitable relationships. They are determined to change their own communities—and that change is likely to last for generations.
Read more about CARE’s work with men and boys at http://www.care.org/work/womens-empowerment/men
About the Author: Emily Janoch is the Knowledge and Learning Advisor for CARE USA's Gender and Empowerment team. She has 9 years experience in international development, focusing on how to work with communities to get solutions that work for them. She has a Masters' in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.