News / Africa

Working with Men to Stop Rape in Africa

Protesters deliver a letter to the office of Kenya's Inspector General in Nairobi demanding justice in the case of a teenage rape victim, Oct. 31, 2013. (Gabe Joselow/VOA)
Protesters deliver a letter to the office of Kenya's Inspector General in Nairobi demanding justice in the case of a teenage rape victim, Oct. 31, 2013. (Gabe Joselow/VOA)
Gabe Joselow
For too long, gender-based violence has been treated as a woman’s issue, even though the vast majority of crimes are committed by men. Across Africa, more programs are seeking to end the scourge of violence by engaging men on all levels and challenging traditional expectations of manhood.
 
An example of how governments throughout the continent are trying to prevent rape can be seen in the case Paul, a 33-year old rapist serving a 10-year sentence in Liberia’s Monrovia Central Prison for raping an 11-year old girl. He admitted to the crime, and is now getting counseling through a government program aimed at sex offenders. He spends much of his day learning life skills he hopes will give allow him to lead a less violent existence on the outside.
 
"I am a rapist. I was put in prison for the past two years and I have been able to improve my life in prison. I do some life skills programs like animal-raising, soap making so I feel so much better. One day I will be released, I will be a good citizen," Paul said.
 
In Liberia in particular, rape and other instances of gender-based violence were rampant during the country’s long civil war, and have continued to plague the nation since then.
 
While the government has devoted more resources to helping to support female victims, other efforts are being made to reach out to men, the most likely would-be perpetrators, and to those, like Paul, seeking rehabilitation. It is happening across Africa.
 
The women’s organization FEMNET, which supports gender equality activities across the continent, has established Men to Men programs in seven countries to recruit more male supporters in their campaign against gender-based violence.
 
Emma Kaliya, the chairwoman of FEMNET, which is based in Malawi, says it is only natural to involve more men.
 
“Personally I do not agree that they are the only perpetrators of violence, but they form the higher percentage of those that are called perpetrators, and therefore it is necessary that you bring them onboard and not leaving them behind in this process of eliminating gender-based violence,” said Kaliya.
 
The campaign to attract more men to the cause seems to be working. Male activists were out in force at a recent protest in Nairobi, demanding justice for a female teenage rape victim whose attackers were set free after being ordered to cut grass as punishment for their crimes.
 
Regional associate for FEMNET’s Men to Men program in Kenya, Kennedy Otina, was among the protesters that day. He says that growing up, he acted like a “typical African man” with little respect for women.
 
Then, his girlfriend became pregnant and everything changed.
 
“The lady eventually gave birth to a baby girl and that is where it was a turning point, because my daughter was so innocent and I was just imagining if I am the one who was discriminating [against] her to that extent, what would happen to the man next door, who does not have much connection to the girl?” asked Otina.
 
Otina now works in the community to raise awareness of sexual violence. Some of the programs deliberately target perpetrators, and offer counseling to men involved in these crimes.
 
He said some men mistakenly misinterpret the Men to Men program as some sort of advocacy center that will help defend male perpetrators.
 
Otina welcomes that misperception, if only because it gives him a chance to have contact with those responsible for violence.
 
"When there is a case in court then they tend to think or assume that we will be the ones to defend them, to support them in court, but you know when they get to us, we help them understand that violence against women is not acceptable,” explained Otina.
 
Otina said the key to reaching men on the issue of gender equality and gender-based violence is to relate it to the women who are important in their life, like a sister, an aunt or a grandmother.
 
Once you bring that to their attention, he said, the process of engagement can begin.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs