Because you are a man
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November to 10 December. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
AS THE global campaign “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” launches today, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of engaging and addressing men in the fight against gender-based violence.
In order to eradicate gender-based violence, we all need to come together, both women and men. But especially men.
In their roles as fathers, brothers, husbands and as fellow human beings, men of all ages are key to bringing this violence to an end.
Men constitute half of the population globally and have an equal responsibility to make sure that all girls, boys and women are assured of equal rights.
Not only is this a moral obligation, it is also an economic and societal pre-condition for Zimbabwe to become a healthier, safer and more prosperous country.
Today, United Nations and the Embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe will be launching a joint campaign that specifically targets the role that men must take in the quest to end gender-based violence.
The Embassy has partnered with 16 brave men who have all taken the bold step to speak up against violence in society; both at the workplace and at home.
Under the banner “Because I am a man”, the 16 brave men are taking a strong stand against all types of gender-based violence, including, but not limited to, physical and verbal harassment, physical abuse of women and children as well as forced child marriages and other harmful practices. They are the much needed male role models. The need for change of harmful and violent behaviour is evident.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, almost seven in 10 Zimbabwean women experience some form of violence at least once in their lifetime, while 46 percent of Zimbabwean men admit to having perpetrated some form of violence in their lifetime.
As alarming as these figures are, the fact remains that many incidents go unreported due to societal stigmatisation, making the actual number of victims much higher.
Additionally, a recent Unicef study found that violence often begins at home at a young age and that it creates a risk of experiencing violence in other settings as well, including at school and online.
It is important to remember that gender-based violence is not only men victimising women and children — it is also prevalent with women abusing their children and their husbands.
Children who grow up being abused by the people they love find it hard to have non-violent relationships as adults due to love and abuse becoming completely intertwined in their world-view.
Research shows that children who are free from violence in their childhood perform better in school and have an overall healthier upbringing.
Many of these sad facts and statistics are rooted in gender-inequality and unhealthy and abusive male behaviour, often passed on from fathers to sons — through generations.
Challenging existing patriarchal structures and traditional masculinity is not only vital for the safety and security of women and children — it also improves the health and social wellbeing of young boys and men.
In addition to reducing violence against women and children, positive masculinity norms can also reduce instances of violence between men.
But to achieve this, it is of utmost importance that men and boys participate in the efforts to end gender-based violence and that they become sensitised to embrace healthier masculinity norms.
16 role models
The 16 men that agreed to participate in the “Because I am a man” campaign are crucial in this effort.
Not only are they influential and known figures in their respective fields, but more importantly, they all have the potential to inspire young boys and men to take a strong stand against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe.
In addition to feeling motivated and inspired by these 16 men, you can also:
◆ Spread the word — to everyone in your community. Gender-based violence is never the victim’s fault.
◆ Shift the culture — positive masculinity also includes being kind, respectful and emotional.
◆ Speak out — whenever women and girls are not treated with respect.
◆ Study it — discrimination and inequality are at the root of violence against women and girls. Educate yourself on these issues.
◆ Support survivors — volunteer or donate to organizations that offer services to victims and survivors. Swedish embassies around the world continue to be driving forces for increased respect for human rights and strong advocates for greater gender equality.
In Zimbabwe, Sweden supports numerous partners and initiatives that promote gender equality and positive masculinity norms.
The Embassy also supports civil society organisations to prevent various forms of abuse as well as institutions that host and assist survivors of gender-based violence.
We hope many young boys and men will feel inspired by the 16 men against gender-based violence. We can only end gender-based violence and allow all Zimbabweans to live a life free from abuse if we — as women and men — work together.
Because you are a man, you too can help end gender-based violence.