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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.