15 January 2013

Zambia: Men Declared Vital Partners in GBV

THE news of a 23-year-old Indian student who died after being gang-raped by four men on a bus in Delhi, India made sad reading and prompted Indian citizens to take to the streets demanding justice and protection of women from such vices.

Surprisingly, the overwhelming outcry against the vice came from men.

It was inspiring to see old men on crutches, young men and boys with placards screaming in condemnation of the vice because majority of Gender Based Violence (GBV) is synonymous with women.

However, over time, there have been calls for a holistic approach towards the fight against GBV where the menfolk should be heavily involved.

OXFAM Zambia is one which has came up with an initiative called I care about her aimed at bridging the gap in the fight against GBV by bringing men on board.

The organisation is working with Young Women's Christian Association and Women's Lobby who have men's networks aimed at meeting the objectives of the I care about her initiative.

The campaign which started last year has also put up billboards with different messages in various places of Lusaka, Mongu and Kafue.

OXFAM Zambia country director for the I care about her campaign Nellie N'yangwa said the initiative aimed at tackling GBV by heavily involving men because they are the perpetrators.

"It is vital to recognise that though cases of GBV are perpetrated by both sexes, men encompass the majority of abusers.

"The fact that many abusers justify their acts of violence is worrying and just downright scary," Ms N'yangwa said.

The other vital sector that OXFAM has identified in the fight against GBV is the justice framework both judicial and traditional which Ms N'yangwa says consists of mainly men.

"The people who are mandated to provide justice also have attitudes; the police, courts are key players hence the need to change their attitudes then women will receive more justice," she says.

Ms N'yangwa said OXFAM was carrying out campaigns with organisations such as Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and Women's Lobby who have men's networks.

She said it was very interesting to note that people call and sometimes even go to the OXFAM offices to report cases of abuse which they refer to the police.

Ms N'yangwa said that the billboards have proved to be effective in that sense adding that the panel discussions on television and radio have also generated a lot of debate.

She said the phone-in discussion programmes usually involve male panellists, citing cases were some men have called in to justify their violence.

Ms N'yangwa said one of the heights of the campaign was during the 16 days of Gender activism week where more than 600 men participated in the march past.

She said OXFAM intended to introduce a hero's programme where some individuals and communities would be rewarded in the fight against GBV.

Ms N'yangwa said an in-house survey carried out at OXFAM revealed that more men were willing to join in the fight against the vice, but they did not know what it took.

Network of Men against GBV in Malawi, Zambia and Kenya country representative Nelson Banda said previously, men were not active in the fight against GBV despite being the main perpetrators.

"There are men who are good, so it is vital to use them to influence others in communities, churches and schools in changing mindsets," Mr Banda said.

He said there was need for more men to stop being silent against their fellow men who are perpetrators.

He said men should be role models to young boys as doing so would enable the youth to respect the values of women.

Golden Nachibinga, coordinator for the Men's network of the Women's Lobby is encouraging its members to encourage men to be role models in their homes and communities.

"Men have a responsibility to protect their families. Children and older women look to protection from their fathers and sons and it is vital for men to realise that they have that role," Mr Nachibinga said.

It is the majority of men who are in authority, traditional and legal justice systems, and the street men who rip a woman's clothes. Therefore, why not join and support the I care about her campaign.

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