Investing in men and boys for a violence-free society
Published On December 4, 2023 » 1232 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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By Jessie Ngoma-Simengwa

ORANGING the world continues to be a tool by United Nations (UN) unifying all activities to bring global attention to the initiative during a period of 16 days.
And so, November 25, an International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, marks the beginning of the annual activist-led campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
This international campaign lasts until 10 December and is observed every year as Human Rights Day.
In addition, it is a reminder to all of us that women’s rights are human rights and we should do all we can to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.
In this particular period, stakeholders intensify their awareness, mobilise, advocate and inspire action to address and respond to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in its many forms in our communities.
But, despite all these efforts, sexual harassment, child marriage, intimate partner violence and rape, among other continue to soar.
This year’s campaign theme, under the global unite campaign is ‘‘UNITE’’ Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls.
Studies from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that one in three women have intimate partner violence or sexual violence from a non-partner perpetrated against them in their lifetime.
It is clear that, as we resolve to redouble our efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls across sectors, this should include men and boys of different ages and backgrounds.
The Zambia Police Service has recorded 10,434 cases of gender based violence country wide during the third quarter of 2023 showing an increase of 1,002 compared to 2022.
Notably for us to understand the drivers of SGBV, these numbers do not even account for psychological and emotional abuse reported by victims.
And so the reasons of violence among women and girls are many and manifest in many different forms which some activists point to poverty, social and cultural norms to be among them.
I am aware that government partners, human rights defenders, are including activities to prevent gender based violence in communities.
But, with the alarming numbers of violence, there is need to scale up these activities by extending them in sports clubs and associations and other areas left out.
We cannot ignore the fact that, the gender imbalance that we continue seeing in all spheres of life is a true reflection that brings a lot of conflicts at family level.
This conflict often brings about GBV with children and women suffering the most hence, the need for male engagement.
In addition, we cannot also deny that men have power in society as household heads, community traditional, cultural and religious leaders.
They hold majority of decision making positions in public and private sector, and have overwhelming political power and so leaving them behind is a problem.
When we meaningfully engage men and boys to challenge negative notions of masculinity, all challenges faced by women and girls will be addressed.
Society must understand that strong family values can only be achieved, when boys and men are equipped with alternative messages about gender and masculinity, as they are the future fathers and partners.
For instance we still have a challenge with women making decisions on their reproductive health and this has put them at risk of sexual transmitted infections.
And so, there is need integrate men involvement in Reproductive Health (RH) matters, including fertility challenges, access to and adoption of family planning services and methods to choose.
We have seen and heard how families who are unable to meet basic needs, risk their children into early marriages particularly in rural and peri-urban Zambia.
This is so because men influence these decisions that are made in all households hence the need to fully engage them.
When we reflect on the 16 days of gender activism, it is evident that social division of labour is also probably the most complex and difficult aspect of gender inequalities.
Similarly, no country has achieved full gender parity and less than one per cent of women and girls live in a country with high women’s empowerment and a small gender gap.
Another important part of preventing sexual and gender based violence is the approach to invest in workplace policies that will create flexible employment.
These are places that target the workplace and employers to create more platforms to address challenges for fatherhood healthy partner’s campaigns.
We are all aware that men spend most of their productive time at their places of work since, have a tremendous impact on gender norms, workplaces can facilitate for their participation.
Therefore it is critical that we extend male engagement to reach and achieve long term and mainstreaming SGBV programs through work place policies.
These and many comments overheard, that arise in discussions and seminars on the challenges of addressing SGBV and inequality can only be addressed when men take a lead.
Currently, we have many countries including Zambia that have stiff laws to combat violence against women and girls with more strategies being enforced yet, more violence and inequality continues to be exhibited in many spheres.
The UN can encourage us to wear and digital our spaces with orange bring and illuminate buildings and landmarks in orange but, we want to see a violence free society.
Everyone in society has an important role to play in ending violence against women and girls and we all must work together across sectors to address the various aspects of violence.
Unless men are actively engaged in supporting better health and well-being relationships, families and the empowerment of women, progress on this gender fight remains a challenge.

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