GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE CAMPAIGN LARGELY MISDIRECTED
KINGDOM MEN AFRICA NETWORK congratulates Women’s Rights campaigners all over the world, including Nigeria, on the occasion of this year’s United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
We note the significant symbolism of the dates – opening as it does annually on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (Friday, November 25) and ending on Human Rights Day (Saturday, December 10);
We appreciate the great work being done to reduce and eventually put an end to the unfortunate and condemnable incidences of violence against women and girls in virtually every clime and culture;
We note that while gender-based violence is supposed to cover violence done by members of the two sexes against the other, it has come to mean mostly violence against women; understandably perhaps, because available statistics indicate that men are predominantly the more visible perpetrators while women are seen as the innocent victims;
We recognise that statistics have fed the narrative that men are somewhat predisposed to violence and find some kind of fulfilment in inflicting it on women and children, as a result of which manhood and masculinity is being liberally stigmatised;
Flowing from this narrative a lot of policies, legislations and activities put in place to deal with gender-based violence have been targeted at curbing the perceived penchant of men to be violent; protect the women from them; punish the perennial aggressors and, succour and rehabilitate the victims;
All of which are well and good were they as effective as its originators had hoped, which we think not. Has awareness been created? Absolutely! Is the violence reducing, most probably. But is it reducing as fast as it could, were the strategy different? Absolutely yes, in our well considered opinion. Does the campaign as it is have a good chance of achieving its objective any time soon? We think not.
For instance, 26 years into the campaign that began in 1991 and 13 years to the 2030 target set by the United Nations, the anti-GBV campaign is already gasping for cash. According to the UN, “One of the major challenges to efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls worldwide is the substantial funding shortfall.” For this reason, the UN Secretary General’s campaign, ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ has themed the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 as ‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls’…”
Also as this year’s 16 Days of Activism got under-way, Foreign Policy, the highly respected journal for the discourse of serious international issues did a kind of snapshot reflecting the state of the campaign. In a November 28 piece by Emily Tamkin, titled Eight Reasons for the U.N.’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence , which may well be eight evidences that the campaign isn’t working as well as expected. For space, we’ll
According to the journal, Australian aboriginal dancers recently “performed to bring attention to the reality that they are 34 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than other Australian women.” In Morocco, the practice remains so pervasive that the State TV recently shared ‘beauty tips (that) will help you carry on with your daily life after domestic violence’. While as recently as November 14, even as government statistics revealed that 36 women are assaulted by their partners everyday, Russian legislators put forth a bill to soften punishment for those who commit domestic violence.
Dire statistics everywhere! The Foreign Policy report quoting a study released in England, earlier this month said that by the end of March 2016, almost half of the children documented as needing social services were victims of domestic violence. The journal also reported that new Eurobarometer poll found 21 percent of Irish people think sex without consent may be all right, depending on the circumstances and that 25% of Irish respondents said they know a family member or friend who was the victim of domestic violence. And in Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds, according to the non-profit Mapa de Violencia.
Last week, says the magazine, “federal police in Germany released national data on domestic violence. It showed over 104,000 women in 2015 were victims of domestic violence, including 331 of whom were killed.” We don’t want to join the magazine in its speculation about what a Trump Presidency forebodes for the United States.
Here in Nigeria, a lot seems to have been achieved, but much of those achievements are at best tokenism resulting not from a deeply ingrained mind-set change, but from public relations concessions.
What then is the problem? The answer is simply that the global campaign has been treating the symptoms NOT the disease!
A famous African proverb says ‘rottenness in a fish begins at its head’; so it is with virtually every challenge the world faces today. It is trite that you cannot effectively clean a river downstream; upstream, at the source, is the place to begin!
Years of engagement with the men-problem globally has taught us that the disease is not violence against women or against anybody else for that matter; that is a symptom. It is as much a symptom of the disease as are sexism, crime, fatherless babies, high divorce rate or even poor public governance and corruption. The disease is male identity crisis, a disease so pervasive that it afflicts not just members of the masculine gender but also, secondarily, the opposite sex and therefore society at large. It has over time been exacerbated by zero or scant awareness of its existence; neglect, and lack or inadequate understanding of its ramification.
This has, among other things, led to the rise of a not-so-subtle gender competition in the name of gender equity or gender equality but which in truth has given rise to sometimes wholesome condemnation of the male gender; and in some cases, a subtle attempt to deny the God-ordained headship role of the man in marriages and trivialise their collective accountability role in society. A recent Facebook post by a certain concerned lady articulated the challenge succinctly:
“I am a woman and I am all up for helping girls and other women like myself, but I have a question and a burden that has been in my heart for a while…Who stands for the men; Who teaches our young men to become responsible adults; Who prays for the men; Who is ready to tell this men how to be a man, a father, a brother, a friend. What standard is built for them to be the kings they were originally created to be. Everyone is all about the woman folk, leaving the man to discover what he has no idea about…”
That is the issue all of us – families, churches, communities, governments and even the international agencies have yet to grasp; it is the one issue which, if we were to face squarely and urgently, will reduce and ultimately remove other problems.
We at Kingdom Men recognise that Men are the Problem, Men are the Answer. By this we mean that God’s place for the man in the scheme of things is pivotal to the well-being of the world and, therefore, that for as long as the men don’t get their acts right, society will remain the worse for it. We also recognise that you cannot give what you don’t have! Male children have either been given nothing by society or at best been given the wrong things – be macho; get it done no matter what; be emotion-less, lead…just do it! And he is demonise when he manifests as has been societally conditioned. This is the reason for our existence; it is the rationale for all our activities, which includes the Fix the Men, Fix Nigeria Initiative.
The Fix The Men, Fix Nigeria Initiative was formally launched at a small media event on International Men’s Day 2014 (November 19), with the hashtags #fixthemenfixNigeria and #fixthemenfixthenations. Through the initiative, we began public campaigns to draw attention to the need for the nations, beginning with our country, Nigeria, to begin to pay attention to the spiritual health and psychological make-up of the men. This is because as it is everywhere in the world today, men are responsible directly and vicariously for virtually all the social, political and economic challenges mankind face – through their actions or omissions as men, husbands, brothers, fathers and leaders.
We note with enthusiasm the activities in Nigeria of an NGO known as Voices for Change, which undertook a research project and published a report titled Being a Man in Nigeria and continues to engage with men’s groups across the country including us. We, however, believe that more effort is required at all levels to rethink strategies for comprehensively turning around the social, political and economic conditions of the nations and recommend the following:
That men and men issues begin to receive the same attention that women and children are getting including instituting a UN-recognised International Day for Men, since the existing privately instituted one, (November 19), is hardly ever noticed.
That governments, donor agencies, corporate bodies under their corporate social responsibility schemes, and private foundations seriously consider funding studies on Men issues and provide financial support for ministries like ours in the pursuit of our mandates. That way appropriate focus can be placed on Men who are currently ignored at best; restore them to positive masculinity thus reawakening in them the innate ability to be real men who will manifest as better husbands and fathers; better sons and brothers and ultimately better community and national leaders.”
Kingdom Men is fully persuaded that these are the cost-effective and sure-fire ways to end gender-based violence as well as virtually all other social, economic and political problems. This is because years of denial notwithstanding, only MEN who get their identity right and who are well-equipped to handle external pressures, can create a societal ambience for women to fulfil their destinies and contribute their immeasurably high quota to lifting the nation – without hindrance.”
We call on all men and women of goodwill to join us in this campaign to rethink strategies for making the world a better place, by together, working towards making the men better. That is the godly way forward, for as a famous Methodist teacher and prayer warrior of old said, Men are God’s methods; while the world looks for better methods, God looks for better men”.
REMI AKANO, Chief Vision Steward, KINGDOM MEN Africa Network Lagos December 8, 2016