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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid