Gender based violence has become predominant and pervasive and is mostly used as a way to prove male dominance. In Africa and many other parts of the world, the men have always been regarded as superior to women. As much as these practices are getting continued criticism and ebbing away in some parts, it has otherwise often been made to look like men can have many sexual partners without any serious consequences and they can beat their wives in order to discipline them. In the Traditional African Society (TAS), women were regarded as the property of men and some cultures even allow sons to hit their mothers.
Men in Africa and some other parts of the world have been brought up with the notion of hegemony-that if it is not dominant, it is not male. They are thought to be tough because ultimately, they are to be the heads of their family in which firm authority is a priority. AAYMCA in partnership with Kenya YMCA (Kilifi and Mombasa), Zambia YMCA (Kitwe and Lusaka) and PAWA initiative have come up with a three-year program dubbed #ARealManIs. The program is aimed at empowering young people to be active in the campaign against Violence Against Women (VAW).
According to a report done by the Africa Alliance of YMCA, most of the women understood violence against women as one perpetrated by a stranger but not one from relatives. They also viewed forced marriages as the highest type of violence against women. Whether, it is early marriages, or demeaning women physically by violating them, the program hopes to end this cycle of violence against women by re-defining, re-ordering and re-orienting youth masculinity. Young people would then treat women with dignity and sensitivity.
In recent times, gender based violence has reduced, but according to the report, it is not yet good enough. Culture is one of the biggest culprits in normalizing VAW in the past but we now know better. Culture doesn’t have to define who we are.
Here are some of the ways we can end violence against women:
First of all we need to define VAW for what it is because there are still misconceptions about what it is and what it encompasses. We should have continuous education about it so that women are able to detect when violence against them comes to play. This way we’ll have taken a big step towards helping women protect themselves. Education should also involve teaching the women what to do in case they’re unfortunately violated.
We also need to encourage women to speak out. Nowadays many organization that deal with VAW are on social media and also have toll free helplines. We should encourage victims of VAW to reach out to these organizations so as to be offered advice and additional help. Also, social media gives women a voice where they can share their stories, and encourage others who might be in similar situations. Stopping violence by reporting cases to helplines or even interrupting any instance of abuse from the sexist language to the smallest act of violence like pushing a girl to the ground can go a long way in saving them. One of these organizations is FIDA, a women’s rights organization that offers free legal aid to women and children, and to which one can report an incident.
We should also align children to respect women from a young age. This will go a long way in curbing old age stereotypes which are a well known precursor to discrimination and violence against women. If they’re taught early in life, they’ll grow up knowing to refrain from sexist behavior.
Another very effective way of tackling VAW is to have the men involved in fighting the vice. For reasons ranging from cultural beliefs, personal beliefs and lack of education among others, sexual and domestic violence is an uncomfortable issue for men to discuss and many remain silent. If men speak out among themselves, agree to protect women and refrain from violence, we’ll see a big change for the better with time. The fight could start with each man vowing to be violent free.