Time to Act: Men lead efforts to end SGBV in Zimbabwe

Padare Summer School 2010Padare hosted its first Gender Summer School, which included workshops and knowledge-sharing activities, in 2010. Photo credit: Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender.

The story is familiar.

In Zimbabwe, 1 in 3 women and girls are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. This abuse is usually perpetrated by someone close to the victim – a current or former boyfriend or husband, a family member, a teacher. Most survivors don’t report the crime or seek help. When state institutions, including the military, police and judiciary, are better known for perpetrating and permitting sexual violence rather than preventing and prosecuting it, why would they?

This story may be changing, however.

Building on decades of women’s activism, thousands of men in Zimbabwe are calling on other men to become women’s allies and to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in their communities. Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender is leading these efforts.

Padare is a feminist men’s organization that engages men and boys on gender issues, including SGBV. The organization sees SGBV as a manifestation of gender inequality and a social system that devalues women and girls. Its goal is to create a gender-just society in which all people have equal rights and are able to exercise those rights, which will result in a better society for men and women, girls and boys.

To accomplish this, the organization uses the historic Shona practice of the “dare” – a forum in which men come together to discuss issues of importance to their communities – as a platform to challenge men and boys to consider what it means to be a man. Having started this process of self-reflection, Padare’s facilitators then encourage men and boys to see respect for women and girls, men’s care-giving roles, and emotional vulnerability as crucial elements of masculinity.

Padare also holds community dialogues which include men, women and children, religious and traditional leaders, health workers and police, to raise awareness and build consensus on how to address gender issues on a broader scale. Additionally, the organization engages the national media, leads gender clubs in public schools, and works closely with the women’s movement. It is even an honorary member of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, a network of over 70 women’s rights organizations and activists.

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