Mobilising Men to End Violence Against Women

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 26 (IPS) – Since it launched in 1997, the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women has distributed more than 78 million dollars to 339 projects around the world, but even these resources fall far short, meeting less than five percent of demand.

The fund provides services to women and girl survivors of violence, including legal aid, health care, shelter and psychosocial support. Managed by UN Women on behalf of the U.N. system, it awards grants annually through a competitive process, with most grantees non- governmental organisations.


Breaking down gender roles, Sonwabo Qathula in an Eastern Cape kitchen. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

This year alone, more than 2,500 applications requesting about 1.2 billion dollars for programmes across 123 countries have been received.

Past grants have supported a wide variety of projects, including work to prevent violence against women and girls through empowering and engaging strategic groups like youth, men and boys in prevention efforts, expanded survivor access to effective services, and strengthening the implementation of laws, policies and action plans.

Ali Raad, 32, is a youth leader in a project mobilising men to end violence against women in Lebanon. The project is supported by the U.N Trust Fund and is implemented by Oxfam Great Britain and its national partner KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation.

Magda El Sanousi, country director of Oxfam GB in Lebanon, has spearheaded the project that works with men and boys to try and change their attitudes and behaviour towards violence against women since it was launched three years ago.

“It is quite an emotional process to create awareness and stimulate debates about violence against women with men,” Sanousi told IPS. “Men tend to act shy as it is quite shameful for them to stand up in public and tell people that they have been violent with their families. We try and develop peer discussions so they can speak up and share their experiences with the rest of the group before we try and find solutions on how to change their behaviour.”

Sanousi said they had already seen signs of progress, with improvement seen among the younger male generation who were more open to listening, growing numbers joining the campaign, and the launch of the Middle East’s first White Ribbon campaign in 2010 – a project mobilising young men to take a stand against violence in support of a national bill addressing intrafamily violence.

In a study conducted by KAFA in 2010, 300 young men from remote areas in Lebanon were asked, “Why do men behave this way?” Sanousi told IPS the results indicated that men said they were brought up and socialised to be violent as a reflection of male masculinity.

“To be accepted in the society, they had to show that they were harsh with women,” Sanousi told IPS. “If they didn’t perform these roles they could be criticised and be told ‘you’re not man’ and this would hurt a lot of the younger generation.”

Sanousi said Ali was a good example of change as he had become a, “change maker, role model and advocate to his peers”, since becoming a youth leader.

“Change is possible”

At the official U.N commemoration to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 15th anniversary of the U.N. Trust Fund on Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for more donors to help reach 100 million dollars for the campaign by 2015.

Urging governments and the corporate sector, the secretary-general said funding was necessary to “harness the energy, ideas and leadership of young people to help end this pandemic”.

“We want people everywhere to speak up and say no to violence against women and girls,” Ban said at the event, which focused on youth leadership.

One of the main targets of the U.N Trust Fund is Ban’s UNiTE campaign – a project launched in 2008 that aims to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General and executive direct of U.N. women, also spoke at the event and credited the U.N Trust Fund for highlighting what policies work to end violence against women over the past 15 years.

“Change is possible and the strategies and innovations that have developed with support from the U.N. Trust Fund are a strong testament to the fact that we are at a unique moment in history to put an end to violence against women,” said Bachelet. “It is time to translate this momentum into reality for women and girls and their communities and nations.”

Sixteen days and 16 steps

While women continue to be subjected to violence worldwide, there has been some progress. Today, 125 countries have laws that penalise domestic violence and equality between women and men is guaranteed in some 139 countries and territories.

Still, Bachelet estimates that up to six in 10 women have suffered physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, a majority from their husbands or partners.

To mark the start of the 16 Days of Activism on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Bachelet outlined a 16-step policy to end violence against women. Steps include ratifying treaties and revising laws, providing universal access to emergency services for survivors of violence and mobilising communities through public education and advocacy.

“We have said so many times that violence against women and girls can be prevented and we all have a responsibility in this and it’s not only and solely the woman’s issue. Not only in the campaign but throughout the year, we must take bold action,” Bachelet said at the conference on Wednesday.

“This is the only way that violence will end, we need to make stronger action and we need stronger leadership. This is why we have been part of the 16-day campaign, calling on countries to take 16 steps forward, steps that are proven to be effective, to prevent violence from happening in the first place and to protect women and girls and to provide essential services to survive.

“It’s not easy to forget. It’s the three P’s – protection, prevention and provision of services.”