Three-country project to engage men and boys off to a flying start

The UN Trust Fund and Sonke Gender Justice Network project has finally been launched in all three participating countries: Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. The project will engage men and boys to strengthen the implementation of gender-based violence laws and policies and to promote gender equality in the three nations.

The vision of this project is to create societies within Sub-Saharan Africa in which men and boys challenge the culture of silence regarding violence against women and take an active role in working to end this violence. The goal is that violence against women will no longer be seen as a women’s issue exclusively; but rather, and rightly, as a gross human rights violation that concerns and affects every one of us. 

The project launch, organised by Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), took place in Kigali, Rwanda, at the Top Tower Hotel on March 13. An emerging theme at this event was the effect of violence perpetrated against women and children during the genocide and how it has created a culture of silence. This in turn has impacted on women’s ability to report any form of violence – a critical observation, given that over 57% of Rwandese women are survivors of some form of intimate partner violence. These observations are supported by a UNIFEM survey (2008) which also unveiled the mask that covered violence meted out on women. 

The second project launch, organised by Men’s Association for Gender Equality (MAGE) in Sierra Leone, took place on June 6 at the Aberdeen Family Kingdom Resort in Free Town, Sierra Leone. The highlight of this event was the passionate emphasis of how the perpetration of violence against women does not only affect women victims, but how it affects men as well. In his presentation, the Executive Director of MAGE, Mr David Tamba Mackieu, pointed out to the audience that, “when one man misbehaves against a woman, it affects another man too because of the cultural interconnections and family lines we have.”

June 13 saw the last of the project launches at the Sarova Pan Afric Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, organised by the MenEngage Kenya Network (MenKen). Ms Jane Oteba, the regional UN Trust Fund focal person, said she was delighted that the project was underway as it would ensure that gender-based violence would cease to be acceptable, excusable, or tolerable in Kenya. The Kenya experience is set to be unique given that there are three other recipients of the UN Trust Fund in the country all collaborating to ensure coordination of activities and synergy in advocating for the eradication of violence against women.

Now the hard work begins and we look forward to maintaining this great momentum through various project activities.

By Itumeleng Komanyane