Many countries have a high level of acceptance of violence against women and girls. Those experiencing it have little or no support or services available to them. To discuss this, in June 2009 we held an event called Gender Based Violence Learning Day: Effective Responses to GBV. This Learning Brief covers an issue raised at that event: how can we engage men to end GBV? Although women are significantly more likely to experience it, working with men as partners is critical.
Why do I need to engage men in a programme to address GBV?
- Such programmes reduce violence.
- Women want men to be involved because male participation helps.
- Change is only sustainable when it involves everyone. Men often hold more power in the community and so can be more effective influencers.
What should I consider when designing such a programme?
- The objective is change for women, yet GBV is a community issue. Changing behaviour includes issues of gender, sexuality and power.
- Use existing groups and form new ones: Men engage easily with other men in family and social relationships, as peer educators and as community leaders.
- Use multiple strategies to capture the entire community. Sources include media, the church and community elders, alongside local action groups.
- Discuss GBV as a problem within a community, not within any individual.
- Use a range of communication materials for information and awareness.
How can I create awareness among men of the impact of violence?
- GBV is related to issues of power and control. The consequences of violence must be understood before behaviour will change.
- Don’t label a ‘perpetrator’; instead discuss acts and behaviour.
- Don’t instill guilt; instead discuss the need for positive change for society.
What can I do to engage men’s attention in a programme?
- Don’t target some men, be open and seek out all men in the community.
- Meet men in situations or groups where they feel safe and accepted.
- Listen to them carefully and communicate using positive, persuasive language.
- Discuss rights and the nature of collective respect in society and in households.
- Discuss strategies for dealing with anger and/or violence.
How can the community as a whole bring about change?
- Educate the community to understand GBV as a health and human rights issue.
- Get men talking to men: use the positive aspects of peer pressure.
- Get men talking to women: facilitate community groups together as well as encouraging men to create a safe environment for women.
- Encourage the community to value what everyone in the household contributes and to tackle gender stereotypes inside and outside the home.
No single group or project can make this change happen. It’s important to work at multiple levels: with political and religious leaders and the education system as well as at grassroots level.
People can be resistant to change. Keep the focus on women and girls, and on motivating men to support women as well as men.
Long-term change requires long-term commitment. But with everyone’s support, GBV can be tackled.