It has become all too common for newspapers to run at least one story on domestic violence or rape. Efforts to engage men as partners in the prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) are critical to achieving positive results.
This 16 Days of Activism, men across the region will lend their support for ending violence.
According to a report delivered by Chief Magistrate Hlekani Mwayera at the launch of the Anti-Domestic Violence Council in Harare, Zimabwe recently, there were 462 reported cases of domestic violence between January and October 2009 in Harare province only. The Mail and Guardian also recently covered a story indicating that the Family Support Trust Clinic in Harare has treated nearly 30 000 girls and boys who were sexually abused in the past four years.
This leaves many people asking whether civil society organisations carrying out efforts to address gender-based violence (GBV) are involving men enough in the struggle. Nakai Nengomasha is a Counselling Programme Officer with Padare Men's Forum on Gender, an organisation working in Zimbabwe to influence men to change their attitudes.
"Men's involvement is critical in achieving social change. The implementation of the Domestic Violence Act is going very well in Gokwe South because the Chief and Magistrate of that district have received training on gender justice and equality as members of the Padare Chapters,” Nengomasha noted.
He indicated that widows in the Nyanga area of the country are no longer facing difficulties trying to access their late husbands' estates because after the property has been shared, relatives of the deceased are required to inform the headman about what happened who will then make a report to the chief.
However, though there are signs that men are beginning to participate in efforts to promote women's equality and leadership, Nengomasha was skeptical when he was asked whether there is hope for a gender justice society in Zimbabwe.
"It's a big vision and I am not sure when will that be achieved because we have to challenge issues of patriarchy and masculinity. It will take time to convince men to give away their privileges,” he said.
However, this does not mean that all men are the same. As indicated by Nengomasha, male involvement is on the rise in areas where Padare is working such as Chitungwiza and Mabvuku.
"In Chitungwiza, we have a home-based care (HBC) programme that is exclusively run by men and our Chapter in Mabvuku offers palliative care services to children living with HIV,” he said. Many men are beginning to realise the negative consequences of violence and are doing their part to improve society.
In order to highlight issues of violence during this year's 16 Days Of Activism campaign against gender-based violence (GBV), Padare and African Fathers are organising a march in Harare with a focus on positive fatherhood. African Fathers Initiative Director, Trevor Davies, said this is fatherhood is a key focus because it is a good entry point to talk to men through their role as fathers.
"Fatherhood is probably one of the most important roles and it's only right that we examine that massive role and get it right,” Davies said. "Many want to be good fathers and it is only a few men who rape women who pollute our name,” he noted.
Transport is going to be organised for men from various parts of the country so that they can meet others to exchange ideas and to challenge GBV. Nengomasha said his organisation will use the 16 Days campaign to influence men through their different levels as husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles and sons to promote more equitable gender relationships in the home.
While there are organisations working to raise public awareness about the need to eliminate GBV,that alone is not sufficient to bring about sustained behavioural change. It is a duty of every human being to come up with practical steps to encourage community members to be good husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.
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