Nepal: Should a women’s organisation fund projects for men?
An interesting discussion with one of Womankind’s partners in Nepal, Saathi, about an issue which is very much open for debate at Womankind itself: should a women’s organisation fund projects for men?
Although not supported directly by Womankind, Saathi’s project ‘Creating Violence-Free Model Villages’ is a door to door campaign, with male and female advocates working directly with the perpetrators of violence to help them understand that violence against women is wrong and to convince them to change their behaviour. The project was initiated at the request of domestic violence survivors who said “unless you can change the men we won’t be able to change the community”. As village men only listened to other men it was necessary to recruit men into the project as peer educators, some of them being former perpetrators.
There are three elements to the programme:
- One-to-one counselling with the perpetrators, or, if necessary, referring them to the police. The men also receive group training on masculinity and their role in reducing violence in the community.
- Men accompany women advocates to take up individual cases in the community, liaising between husband and wife. This provides support and protection for the women advocates and also encourages male perpetrators to take the intervention seriously.
- Inducing new sectors of men to understand that violence against women in wrong. One targeted group are football supporters; football is the most popular sport in Nepal and crosses all generations. The project is entitled ‘Our Goal: Stop Violence Against Women’. Posters, bill boards and video advertisements feature 5 of Nepal’s top footballers who have lent their name to the campaign, and feature slogans such “Fair play not only in the ground but also in the house and society. Be a real man and play a fair game.”
On their own initiative, the male activists have adopted a pink t-shirt with black trousers, and the women wear a pink sari with black top and they have all now requested pink baseball caps. This enables them to be recognised in the community.
Saathi believe that engaging with men has achieved better results in Nepal because previous efforts which targeted men as abusers had a direct impact on their partners, who often received more abuse as a result. I think they are right to work with men in order to empower women and protect their human rights.
Post by Julie Ashdown, Chair of Womankind’s Board of Trustees