Men’s Movements Worldwide Declare Peace between the Sexes

By Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief
Peace X Peace

According to UNWomen’s first annual report, gender violence is legal in one-third of the world’s nations. Though women routinely suffer abuse in countries that criminalize it, impunity for abusers is all but certain where the culture accepts violence as normal. Fortunately for us all, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has made ending violence against women a hallmark of his tenure since he took office in 2007.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon Credit: UN

He reinforced the seminal SC Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace, and Security, with resolutions 1820, 1888, and 1889, all directed against gender violence in conflict. Just days ago, on January 29, he addressed the African Union with what observers called an “unusually outspoken” defense of sexual minority rights. UNiTE, his United Nations Initiative To End Violence against Women and Girls, and its Network of Men Leaders have inspired culture-change projects around the world, many of them focused directly on men.

A project underway in Hunan Province, China, has already produced some city-level legislation and is expected to inform that nation’s first Anti-Domestic Violence Law. It’s got an interesting tech wrinkle too. In surveying men’s attitudes, to avoid embarrassment and increase the chance of honest answers, researchers use a PDA programmed with questions. For subjects who can’t read, the device can also ask questions aloud and record speech.

In Armenia, where 95% of the population belongs to the church, priests are effective in conveying the message that women deserve respect. In Minsk, Belarus, where surveys show one in four women is abused, a new media campaign is branding violence against women “a weapon of the weak,” and 1500 men have signed up to carry the message.

The Belarus project, like others in 70 countries worldwide, is part of the White Ribbon Campaign founded in 1991 by Canadian Michael Kaufman, author of The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. New Zealand’s White Ribbon Campaign involves dozens of ambassadors from all walks of life who agree to uphold the White Ribbon Pledge, carry anti-violence messages to their communities, and mentor other men. Pledgers agree not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

Musician Neil Cabongon produced the song and video “Men Move” for the Philippines Commission for Women and the UNiTE Campaign. It’s catchy! And it joins a family of other UNiTE video PSAs, including some by artists from the Caribbean like George Nooks.

ProMundo’s Program H (For homens & hombres, the Portuguese and Spanish words for men) began in Brazil and Mexico and has since been adapted for use in Asia, Africa, and across the Americas.

On December 9, 2011, Cambodia launched a national Good Men Campaign. According to its Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the country has already seen a 24% decrease in incidents of domestic violence and aims to build on those gains. UNIFEM is supporting a program in Turkey that trains fathers to foster nonviolent families. In Rwanda, 400 Girl Guides are going door to door to invite men to embrace change, as part of an International Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts program. Men in Ngururo District, where the program began, have formed an association and are running their own campaign to sensitize their fellows. You can hear about it on UN Radio.

As women in Egypt protest the military government’s violent repression, some have had their own rights violated by their fellow protesters. A recent report from Common Ground News Service highlighted three Egyptian men who stand with and for their sisters. That’s a story that bears repeating!

According to the International Center for Research on Women, a pilot program to promote gender equality in one of India’s school districts is now being expanded with funding from the MacArthur Foundation. Results were mixed, but program specialists believe the higher reporting of gender violence in the second year means participants have been sensitized, so it no longer seems normal.

The Secretary General’s UNiTE initiative boasts a 15-member international Network of Men Leaders that includes Brazil’s Paulo Coelho, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu, Bangladeshi Muhammed Yunus, and the United States’ own Ted Bunch. They have a world of injustice to take on, so it’s good to know we have powerful allies.

Please share your favorite resources with us in the Comments section below. And share stories about men in your part of the world who work for the equality of women and toward a culture of peace. We’ll profile some of our favorite men in the June Fathers Day issue, and we’d love to include your heroes!

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