Category Archives: Men 2 Men

Ending FGM & Harmful Traditional Practices: Engaging Our Religious & Cultural Leaders

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By Otina Kennedy*

In many African communities, cultural leaders are increasingly under pressure to remain relevant in light of increasing awareness and advancements on human rights for women and men.  There are many cultural practices that are in direct conflict with some of the national and regional laws, especially those which focus on the rights of women and girls. Most cultural institutions are male dominated and promote patriarchal tendencies that have remained a major hindrance to social justice and adherence to women’s and girls’ rights.  The greatest challenge is transforming the attitudes of cultural leaders to promote the rights of women, without fear of losing their influence in their communities.

endFGM

Since 2013, FEMNET (African Women’s Development and Communication Network), the Swedish Reproductive Health Organization (RFSU), Masculinity Institute (MAIN) and the Anglican Development Services Mount Kenya East (ADMSKE) have jointly partnered to tap in to the social status and influence religious and cultural leaders to promote sexual, reproductive, health and rights – SRHR for women and girls in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Homabay counties in Kenya.

The project engages cultural and religious leaders in mobilising and leading their communities towards ending socio-cultural practices deeply-rooted in their communities such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and wife inheritance as a strategy to promote sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in Tharaka Nithi and Homa Bay counties, respectively.

Using FEMNET’s Men to Men Strategy, the leaders have successfully cultivated an environment for religious and cultural leaders to work together to address FGM. For example, in Meru and Tharaka Nithi, the highly esteemed cultural leaders known as Njuri Ncheke have been openly supporting alternative rites of passage and are giving a consistent message to their communities.

The project has provided a platform where religious and cultural leaders share intelligence on secret ways used in performing FGM. One such tick is the transfer of girls from one village to another to confuse the locals.  From this information, religious and cultural leaders are alert and continuously monitor the influx of non-resident girls into their neighborhoods to ensure they don’t undergo FGM. The national treasurer of the Njuri Ncheke, Mzee Mwamba from Mara, is a traditional male circumciser and gathered this intelligence:

‘One day as I was checking on the medicine used on circumcised boys, I noticed that somebody was using the herbs without my knowledge. Upon investigations, I was informed about some women who were colluding with my assistants to siphon the herbs. I later learned the women were administering the herbs on girls who had been brought in the neighborhood from other communities to undergo FGM. As a trainer of trainers on SRHR, I was embarrassed that this practice was still happening in my backyard.  I reprimanded my assistants and the women involved who later shared the tricks that they use locally to perform FGM. I have gone further to establish a team of scouts who are keeping a watchful eye on girls visiting our area to protect them from FGM. Even though the women who were stealing my herbs committed to stop the practice, I had to report them to the area Chief who is the government representative at the village level to ensure they are known to the authorities for illegal activities.’

Women remain key allies in all the efforts to eradicate FGM. Society has pushed them into believing that FGM is a source of income and status in the community. Women have been pushed to justify FGM as a cultural heritage despite the negative impact the practice has on them directly. Most of the women who mutilate these young girls don’t believe that FGM is illegal and will go an extra mile to mobilise their fellow women to allow their girls to undergo the practice.  “We can easily tell if a girl from a particular family has not been circumcised. Our cultural practice requires that after undergoing FGM, the mother to the girl must organise a dance ceremony for women in the village to  perform songs and dances in praise of the circumcised girl”,  said a woman who performs FGM. Men have continuously blamed women for performing FGM, yet they seldom publicly condemn it. This is a scapegoat used by the men to avoid taking responsibilityon FGM matters. Women should be made to understand the immediate and long term negative impacts of FGM on the girls and on women’s SRHR life.

Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol calls upon State Parties to prohibit “all forms of FGM” through legislative measures and supportive sanctions. Kenya has since come up with an anti-FGM law -“The Prohibition of the FGM Act 2011”. The Act explicitly prohibits female genital mutilation. However, the greatest challenge remains the implementation of law.  The situation gets worse at the community level as some duty bearers accept FGM as sound cultural practice.

In Kenya, the government is represented in every village by administrators who are often picked from the same community. This is aimed at ensuring that they are familiar with the people they are governing. However, they also harbor attitudes that perpetuate negative cultural practices like FGM thereby hindering efforts towards eradicating it.  A case in point is in Katwara village, where a family was free to perform FGM on their girls after paying Kshs. 6,500 (USD 70). The money is shared as follows: the area Chief and Assistant Chief get Kshs. 1,500 (USD 16) each, the village Headman gets Kshs.1,000 (USD 11) and the woman performing the cut gets Kshs. 2,000 (USD 22). When members of the community went to demand an explanation as to why the Chief as a government official was allowing the practice to continue in the village, he became indifferent.” Kila mtu ako na mtoto wake na anaweza kumfanyia kile anachotaka. Sitaki maneno yenu na mkijaribu kutuingilia tutawaroga” (Everybody has their own child and is free to do what they like. I don’t want to engage with you on question and answer anymore. I will bewitch anybody who interferes with us). The Chief has succeeded in intimidating the community members using his position in government. As a government representative in the community, it is unfortunate that he supports a practice that has been outlawed. This scenario is repeated many times over in communities and countries across Africa.

This year, the project partners have purposed to expand the stakeholders’ base to target other members of the community. In the coming months, we will be strengthening the role of women as advocates for the eradication of FGM. Men and boys will also be given a platform to openly voice and demand an end to FGM.  Additionally, the project will undertake advocacy campaigns targeting national and county governments to ensure that the existing national laws are widely known by the citizenry, and are implemented. At national level, the project will share intelligence on the tricks community members are using to procure FGM on young girls with the National Anti FGM Board. The project will work together with the National Police Service to ensure that they are properly trained to handle these cases and that  reported cases are prosecuted as a matter of public interest.  It is sad that FGM is still a problem facing us at this time and age. This is a wakeup call to all of us that a lot more is needed to truly abandon and end FGM in our generation.  There is need for concerted efforts by all – women and men, girls and boys, young and old, government and non-governmental institutions – as well as education, advocacy, outreach, political will and collaboration. This is not just a problem for the few, but for us as a people of Kenya. FGM is wrong. Protect the girl by raising your voice.

Join the campaign: #endfgm.

*Mr Otina Kennedy is the Program Associate (Regional Men to Men Program) at FEMNET.

Dear Man on the Bus

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“Tell the 1 in 3 women of this world that you will not make pinatas of their bodies…..”
“Tell my 3rd grade student that he wanted it – that his beauty had him coming”
“Rape is a coward that hides its face in the makeup of silence….a murderous fruit that grows best in the shadows of taboo”

PRESS RELEASE: The Physical Assault on Nairobi Women’s Representative Hon. Rachael Shebesh by Dr Evans Kidero, Governor Nairobi County

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Nairobi 11th September 2013

The network of Men to Men members comprising of Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN), The Masculinity Institute (MAIN) and other men of goodwill advocating for violence free life for women, girls boys and men, would like to respond to Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero for physically assaulting Nairobi Women’s Representative Hon. Rachael Shebesh on Friday 6th September 2013 at City Hall-Nairobi.

We come out to protest against Dr Kidero’s actions and condemn any and all forms of violence in the strongest way possible. The act of slapping Hon. Shebesh sets a bad precedent for public conduct at the highest level of leadership in Nairobi County.

We wish to remind Dr Kidero that he holds a public office on behalf of the people of Nairobi. He has a legal and public duty to treat ALL Kenyans with decorum befitting the status of the office of the Governor of Nairobi and as a result ensure that his officers, friends and staff do the same.

Dr Kidero’s assault on Hon Shebesh was a recipe for more violence since it led to sporadic attacks on Hon Shebesh and other women in her entourage by a marauding gang that was present at the Governor’s office.

Besides being an elected leader in Nairobi, Hon Shebesh has every right as a Kenyan to access the office of the Governor on matters of interest to the people of Nairobi. The notion that the Governor’s office is private cannot be entertained because it remains a public office accessible to any member of the public.

We wish to remind Dr Kidero that as a result of his actions, perpetrators of violence have found justification to continue violations against women in Kenya. As men who recognize the indivisibility of human rights and committed to end all forms of violence against women and girls men and boys we are disappointed by the Governor’s actions.

We demand:

  1. We echo COTU’s demand through Assistant Secretary- General Mr George Muchai for the Governor Kidero to leave office.
  2. We further demand that the Director of the Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the police begin speedy investigations into the assault charges that were filed by Hon Shebesh on 6th September2013. Dr. Kidero was a public official acting in his official capacity on public property. The DPP must ensure prosecution on this matter occurs in a timely manner and is done without fear or favour.
  3. Dr Kidero must publicly apologize to the people of Nairobi County and her women for the acts of aggression on Hon Rachel Shebesh, which both symbolized and endorsed violence against women as the norm in public and private.
  4. Dr. Kidero must handover for prosecution the group of marauding youth who violated the Hon Shebesh and other women at City Hall.
  5. The Nairobi county executive must open up their offices for public scrutiny from the National Gender and Equality Commission, working with other like-minded organisations to ensure that enabling frameworks on zero tolerance of all forms of violence and accompanying accountability mechanisms are instituted and enforced. Further the Nairobi county executive must be obliged to attend sensitization training of sexual and gender based violence.

In conclusion

We call all on men in positions of authority and duty bearers to take a visible stand against violence against women and not stand aside when any act of violence is taking place.

Further, we reiterate that there is no justification for violence no matter the situation. When elected leaders take a leadership role in ending violence, Kenyans are guaranteed of their basic human rights without fear or favor.

We take this opportunity to remind all elected leaders of their oath to protect and defend the rights of the citizens of Kenya. The constitution in the Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen equality before the law and the right to violence free life.

Lastly, we urge every citizen to take responsibility to protect women, girls, boys and girls of Kenya. We join hands with other like-minded men, women and organizations who have condemned the acts of violence against Hon Rachel Shebesh and all the other women. Take a stand against violence targeted at women!

Press Contact:

Kennedy Otina
FEMNET’s Men to Men Regional Program
Tel: +254 20 2712971/2
Email: mentomen@femnet.or.ke

Philip Otieno
Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN)
Email: executivedirector@gmegen.org

Gerald Awat
Masculinity Institute (MAIN)
Email: masculinityinstitute@gmail.com

FEMNET LAUNCHES MEN TO MEN STRATEGY TOOLKIT

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By Felogene Anumo, Advocacy Intern, FEMNET

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On April 26, 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya, The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) launched “The Men to Men Strategy Toolkit on Working with Men to Combat Gender Based Violence”. The toolkit aims to strengthen programmes that seek to engage with men to combat gender based violence (GBV). The Strategy Toolkit shares information, tools, activities, and skills building ideas and methods to support organizations and individuals to better understand the needs of working with men to address GBV in collaboration with women’s rights organizations inAfrica.

The launch, attended by well over 200 people, was part of the monthly Gender Forum convened by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) inKenya. During the gender forum, a team of panelists explored the root causes of GBV by placing it in the context of deconstructing masculinity and femininity. The discussants highlighted why it is critical that men and boys embrace the tasks of promoting gender equality and ending violence against women;  and perhaps just as importantly, how the entire society can work more effectively to ensure that men and boys do embrace this challenge.

FEMNET’s involvement in the Men to Men Project started with a Men to Men Consultation held in December 2001. After piloting inKenyaandMalawi, today the Men to Men Programme is one of the leading regional initiatives that has demystified the role of men in combating gender based violence. This awareness has led to an increase in programs and activities that focus on men’s roles in violence prevention inAfricaand globally.

Redefining Masculinity

In the past, gender based violence has been used interchangeably with Violence Against Women despite the fact that GBV is perpetrated against both men and women. This is because most instances of GBV are perpetrated against women. At the launch, Kennedy Odhiambo Otina, Regional Program Associate of the Men to Men Programme at FEMNET addressed this as an issue of negative masculinity being the root cause of violence. According to theOxforddictionary, masculinity is defined as possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men. Negative masculinity can lead to dominance and aggression which ultimately leads to violence. “However, since masculinity is defined within the confines of a society, it is possible to redefine masculinity to be positive and responsive to human rights,” Kennedy said.

Myths and Misconceptions surrounding Gender Roles in the Society

Prof. Nyokabi Kamau, a Gender Consultant, attributed the changing trends of GBV to the misconceptions surrounding the understanding of gender.  “When we talk of gender we refer to the social construction of female and male identity learned through social processes” she explained. She emphasized that since gender is learned behavior, it can also be unlearned. “Gender is constructed and therefore can be deconstructed.” Social processes that influence definitions of male and female identity include family, peers, religious institutions and, among the most influential, media.

Also addressed at the forum, was the importance of demystifying gender equity and empowerment and how this influences the changing roles of men and women in the modern society. Most modern societies are patriarchal in nature. As Beverline Ongaro, an Advocate with High Court put it, “Men who are likely to commit violence are men who over-identify with traditional masculine values and roles.” Cultural and societal expectations of men influence how men are taught to think and act in relation to women. However, we need to rethink this in the changing modern society. Empowering women does not mean disempowering men.

Oscar Odhiambo, a participant, agreed that there is need to empower men to understand gender equality and how it affects the society, to enable an environment where it is possible to raise stable families. Another participant felt that while there is absolutely no justification for violence, it is the role of both men and women to curb this vice and not solely a woman’s issue. When it comes to discussing gender issues, one of the participants felt that such discussions need to be conducted more objectively by doing away with terms such as ‘weaker sex’, ‘the disadvantaged’ for example.

Way Forward

With the escalating cases and changing trends of GBV on the continent, it is clear that the vice is a problem of the entire society and not solely of women or men. Men’s role in preventing violence against women is very critical. Our society must accept that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution. Men can take up an active role in the prevention of violence against women by examining their own potential for violence and not condoning or perpetuating violence, by taking a visible stand against the violence caused by other men, and by addressing the root causes of violence such as unequal power relations.

It is our hope that FEMNET’s experience in working with men documented in the Men to Men Strategy Toolkit, will contribute to a better understanding of the role men can play in combating GBV.

Download a copy: Men to Men Strategy Toolkit

View photos of the launch

For further information, please contact: Ken Otieno mentomen@femnet.or.ke

UNiTE T-shirt Design Competition

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Launched in 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign aims to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world.

ALL YOUNG MEN WORLDWIDE WHOARE18-25YEARS OLD ARE INVITED TO:

  • Imagine how the world would look without violence against women and girls
  • Think big and positive about the concepts of equality, diversity, and respect
  • Use imagination and artistic ability to stand up and speak out against all forms of violence against women and girls

DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN UNiTE’S T-SHIRT DESIGN COMPETITION!

For more information, please go to: http://unitetshirtcompetition.org/en/home

Men’s Network Campfire Conference Gains Momentum in Zambia

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By Nelson Banda

The fight against gender inequality is gaining momentum in Zambia as men have adopted the strategy of engaging men at night during the Men’s Campfire conference. The Men’s Campfire conference targets men from different backgrounds by meeting them around a bone fire and engage in discussion on issues that affect women such as promoting women in leadership as well as ending gender violence. The first Men’s Campfire Conference was sponsored by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and was held in Kasenga Resettlement  30 KM north east of Lusaka. The conference brought men different background such as traditional and church leaders, youth leaders and teachers who braved the night to develop strategies affecting women and girls. Click the link to read the full story Men

African Male activists for Gender Equality meet in Nairobi, Kenya

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For Immediate Release

12th May, 2009.

 

Press Release 

                                                                                                                                               

 African Male activists for Gender Equality meet in Nairobi, Kenya

From the 13th to 14th May,2009  African gender activists, the majority of them men, will meet in Nairobi, Kenya at  Silver Springs Hotel to discuss strategies for involving more men in the campaign for promoting gender equality and ending gender-based violence. Most of the organisations attending the meeting are already doing innovative work on involving men in the struggle for gender justice in their home countries. The 30 representatives are drawn from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Malawi Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. During the 2 days meeting organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), participants will strategize on how to design a regional network for an extended campaign to reach men and involve them in ending gender violence in Africa.

The meeting coincides with the world-wide celebration of the International Day of Families (May 15th), whose theme for 2009 is: “Mothers and Families: Challenges in a Changing World.” As promoters of male involvement in promoting gender justice, we advocate for men to share the responsibilities for unpaid care work in the home and communities including in the process of nation building.

FEMNET Chairperson Mama Koite Doumbia emphasizes, that the need for men to take up equal responsibilities in the family was highlighted during the 53rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2009. The theme for this session was equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS”. “The same month, the International Women’s Day was celebrated with the theme: “Men and women: United to end violence against women and girls”. Most meeting participants have several years experience of working with men, assisting them to break away from archaic masculinities, to put an end to discriminatory behavior and violence, and instead become activists for gender justice” Said Mrs. Doumbia.

On Thursday 14th May 2009, at 17h30, FEMNET will launch a book in which Kenyan gender activists share their stories as individuals and as changemakers. The book developed by FEMNET and Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN Kenya), is titled “Defying the Odds: Lessons learnt from Men for Gender Equality Now”.  FEMNET Executive Director Norah Matovu-Winyi explains that the aim of publicly sharing these experiences is to inspire other organizations to learn from our work with men in promoting gender equality. Ultimately the aim is to create a more gender-equal and violence-free world – and to contribute to the body of knowledge on how men and women can work together to achieve social and gender justice.”

Note to Editors
Media are invited to both the official opening of the African Regional Meeting on 13th May 2009 at 08:30 A.M  and the Launch of the Book titled  “Defying the odds: Lessons learnt from Men for Gender Equality Now” On Thursday 14th, at 17h30. There will be opportunities for interviews with Male activist about their personal journey in fighting gender based violence including FEMNET Executive Director Norah Matovu-Winyi, Chairperson of FEMNET Mama Koite Doumbia from Mali, Hassan Omar Hassan, Vice-chair of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) and other personalities invited to the launch of the book.

For more information, please contact FEMNET’s Communication Officer,

Carlyn Hambuba on 020-2712971/2:  communication@femnet.or.ke

Åsa Eriksson (editor of the book “Telling our Stories”) on 0737-197446: asa.eriksson@femnet.or.ke