The game changers the world needs

October 21, 2014

Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to a nationwide study conducted in 2013, about 87 per cent of women in Bangladesh are abused by their husband. A recent report by BRAC’s community empowerment programme (CEP) revealed that eight out of 10 violence perpetrators are men. Thus involving men is crucial if we want to eradicate violence against women. In 2013, BRAC for the first time initiated a project to engage men as partners to reduce violence against women by changing their attitudes.

Members of an adolescent and youth committee in Pabna.

Members of an adolescent and youth committee in Pabna.

According to a nationwide study conducted in 2013, about 87 per cent of women in Bangladesh are abused by their husband. A recent report by BRAC’s community empowerment programme (CEP) revealed that eight out of 10 violence perpetrators are men. Thus involving men is crucial if we want to eradicate violence against women. In 2013, BRAC for the first time initiated a project to engage men as partners to reduce violence against women by changing their attitudes.

By bringing a variety of community stakeholders together, this pilot project covers 12 rural wards in five districts including Kishoregonj, Narsingdi, Faridpur, Jessore and Pabna. Two ward-based groups, known as the action committee and the adolescent and youth committee, are the driving forces. The action committees consist of well-respected community members including men, women, service providers, as well as adolescents. However, adolescent and youth committee consists of only young boys and girls, who then coordinate with their local action committee.

The groups identified a range of issues that required intervening including dowry, child marriage, polygamy, and domestic violence. The committees meet every three months to review the progress and improvements of these issues. BRAC trains the committee members on behaviour changes to reflect more positive lifestyle and attitudes. The training focuses on transforming the traditional notions of masculinity and gender norms that perpetuate men’s violence against women. Afterwards, the members share what they learned with other men in their families and communities. Some awareness raising activities include popular theatre and quiz competitions, making it easier for committees’ to reach the community.

The project’s initiatives ranges from the introspective task of examining one’s own personal attitudes and behaviour to more public acts such as speaking out against violence, taking action as a proactive bystander, serving as a role model or allying with others. Themes of masculinity are central to the efforts, rejecting gender violence and building respect for women and girls. Since the project’s inception, these efforts have led to an increase in knowledge about violence against women in the communities. There has been a sharp decrease in the rate of child marriage in our working areas with a rate of 20 per cent compared to 66 per cent countrywide. There was also an 80 per cent decrease among those with a compulsion for gambling, which also perpetuates cycles of violence. Additionally, 200 boys have taken a vow to have a dowry-free marriage. Currently, CEP aims to replicate this initiative beyond the existing 12 wards in order to have a greater impact in preventing violence against women.

Violence against women is not just a women’s issue; it’s a men’s issue. It is their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who are at risk. Therefore, men can choose to challenge those who do. Together, with the women and girls, men and boys can make life safer for everyone; benefiting not only women, but all of humanity. Men, you can be the game changers we need to end violence against women once and for all.

Salina Shahnaz Shilpi is a communications manager at BRAC’s community empowerment programme.

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