By Asif Khan and Katherine Conway
Today, we focus on violence against girls and women, which is unfortunately a worldwide phenomenon. Did you know that 7 out of 10 women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime? That’s 7 women too many. Violence takes many forms – physical, sexual, emotional, and mental – and the vast majority of it is perpetrated by men and boys.
What stories are we telling about men and boys related to violence? Are they only causing the violence?
Some men and boys are perpetrators. But many boys and men are also protectors, community builders, and peace-makers. As an example, we can look at Malala Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who himself, is an education activist in Pakistan, and encouraged Malala to attend school. We must not forget that men and boys also envision a world where their wives, daughters, sisters, and friends are safe and have opportunities.
What does expanding the story to include other narratives mean?
Understanding that men and boys are part of the solution is the first step. There are many important initiatives that educate girls and women about safety, personal empowerment, and in the unfortunate case that violence occurs, speaking out after they have been a victim. While efforts should remain focused on girls, they should also be expanded to include men and boys. We need to view violence as a community or societal issue. In addition to having these efforts focused on women and girls, we should also have programs for boys that educate them on the value of equality, personal development, and non-violent interpersonal relationships. Violence is, in part, a behavior that boys learn either from family/community members, the media, community members, and friends. More men and boys should be supported in changing this narrative – to write a story where they play the role of peacemaker and community builder.
Telling a more nuanced version of the story about men and boys is the second step. In order to bring men and boys into the peacebuilding process to build safer places for women and girls, we must tell the story differently about the possible role of men and boys. Men and boys are a critical part of each community, and any effort to empower women will be less effective if the men and boys are sitting on the sidelines. We should emphasize the work of males who are working in this space to achieve gender parity and an end to unfair treatment and violence against women to help open up the space for more men and boys to participate.