Men take on GBV fight
Windhoek – Namibian men have joined the fight against gender-based violence through initiatives aimed at curbing the heinous act.
White Ribbon Campaign Namibia (WRCN) ‑ part of a larger effort in the world of men working to end violence against women ‑ works with people from all walks of life implementing community-based projects on GBV, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health as well as maternal health.
The campaign was initiated by the United Nations (UN) and was established in Canada in 2000. Currently, it is present in 55 countries.
Through its various projects, WRCN has collaborated with local and international entities such as Men Engage, White Ribbon Campaign Canada and the Africa Gender Based Violence Network to explore ways of introducing initiatives aimed at improving social conditions in local communities. One such initiative is the One Man Can Campaign on GBV that WRCN piloted in schools in Khomas, Hardap and Karas regions.
“Men are not too caring about women and children because of how we are brought up. Culture has taught us to be strong and provide for our families, we are taught not to cry, but I say men and women need each other to overcome the issue of GBV,” says Charles Simakumba, co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign Namibia.
Currently, WRCN has an eight-member volunteer board, seven volunteer staff members and a growing general membership as well as volunteer base across the country.
“I quit my profession as a teacher because I am very passionate about such issues and I want to make men realize that they can be part of the solution. As new men we understand what our mothers, wives, children and sisters are going through that is why we are united to curb this violence”, Simakumba said.
With UNICEF’s support, in August 2008, WRCN conducted regional consultations with men from all works of life ‑ police officers, soldiers, constituency councillors as well as students. The aim of the meetings was to get men’s views and opinions on the high level of violence against women in Namibia and to map out strategies on how best it could be addressed.
“Culture has allowed men not to talk to each other but we are breaking that barrier now, that’s why it’s crucial to involve men in our campaigns,” said Simakumba.
Part of the findings were that people often attribute violence to mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse amongst men, lack of education on anger management, unfaithfulness in intimate relationships, refusing to have sexual intercourse and many more.
Men need to be involved if gender equality is to be achieved and human rights programmes are to succeed because men are important role models to other men, especially boys, and can teach them to protect women.
Also men can assist in creating a culture where the behavior of the minority who treat women and girls with contempt becomes unacceptable. In addition, men being decision-makers can influence behaviours such as multiple concurrent partnerships, condom use and regular testing. Lastly, men can examine their behaviour and consider changes which will create a world based upon gender equality.
“Men should be present while their partners are giving birth in order to witness the suffering and pain women endure so that they don’t lay a hand on women,” articulated Simakumba.
So far, WRCN has trained over 6 000 men and 90 women on GBV prevention, and reached over 420 men and boys during social mobilisation on male involvement in maternal health in the Caprivi region.
“Currently we want to build a relationship between society and the media, we wrote a book titled ‘Handling the Media’, and we are also working towards a project called Men’s Pledge Namibia in which every member has to sign an agreement to say no to violence. We have a project in the pipeline called ‘Clothing’, which is for people with disabilities.