In Choma, Zambia, victims of gender-based violence (GBV) can seek counselling and support from local organisations, the Victim Support Unit, and the Law Development Association. Lawyers working for the Law Development Association help survivors file lawsuits against perpetrators of gender-based violence and assist them through all the administrative and judiciary processes.
However, even with this assistance, most decide to drop the lawsuit and return home within a few days or weeks for financial or social reasons. The perpetrator is often the victim’s own intimate partner, or a family member. Back in their households, victims find themselves in exactly the same situation and the cycle of violence starts again.
Acknowledging the gravity of this issue, the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) has decided to address the root causes by engaging male perpetrators in men-only discussion groups. This initiative is part of the Learning Centre Initiative implemented together with Sonke Gender Justice Network and with the support of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU). During the sessions facilitated by PPAZ and the Law Development Association staff, the participants discuss men and women’s sexual and reproductive rights, the importance of accessing quality health services, and gender norms. Most importantly they share their personal experiences and reflect on what it means to be a man. PPAZ promotes the vision of men as equal partners and agents of change. In a society ruled by strict gender norms and roles, this vision is not shared by everyone. Gender-based violence within couples is commonplace and few men are willing to change.
To convince men to participate, PPAZ has created Male Involvement Committees in both its target sites in Choma. The Committees are composed of traditional leaders, religious leaders, teachers and members of the local council. These men are highly respected by the community and can be seen as role models. When they advocate for more gender equality and male involvement, their voices are heard by the whole community.
by Sophie Baumgartner