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Engaging Men to Help End GBV

By Denise Kirk
July 24, 2023

Engaging Men and Boys to Help End Gender-Based Violence in Canada

Engaging men to help end gender-based violence is crucial in creating a better society and future. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a pervasive issue that has plagued societies for centuries. It stems from deeply ingrained patriarchal norms and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women and marginalized communities. Patriarchy is an age-old social system that gives men disproportionate power over women and minority communities. It lies at the heart of gender-based violence in many societies worldwide. This harmful system perpetuates inequality and discrimination by upholding traditional gender roles.

GBV includes physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse, mainly targeting women and girls.

Historical, cultural, and socio-economic factors contribute to violence against women and minorities. Systemic oppression has limited women’s access to education, jobs, and decision-making. This leads to harmful attitudes justifying violence against them.

GBV’s impact extends beyond immediate victims, affecting families, communities, and society. It hinders economic development and poses significant public health concerns. Intersectionality compounds the vulnerabilities of marginalized communities, intensifying the violence they endure.

In Canada, like in other countries, GBV remains a pressing issue, affecting marginalized groups the most. While not all men perpetrate violence, most GBV cases involve male perpetrators. This highlights the need to address men’s role in combating this pervasive problem.

So, in this article, we will explore approaches to involve men and boys in ending GBV in Canada. We’ll discuss the positive effects of involved fatherhood, the role of youth sports and cultural communities, the importance of addressing men’s mental health, and having open conversations about gender equality.

 

Positive Effects of Involved Fatherhood

Involved fatherhood refers to fathers actively participating in their children’s lives and promoting positive attitudes toward women. When fathers model respectful and equitable relationships at home, they contribute to shaping healthier gender norms in their children.

For example, a father who shares household responsibilities equally with the mother shows his children that domestic tasks are not gender-specific. This can lead to children adopting more egalitarian attitudes towards gender roles, reducing the likelihood of perpetrating or supporting GBV later in life.

When children witness their fathers treating their mothers respectfully and equally, they internalize these behaviours as usual and desirable. Sons learn that treating women with dignity and empathy is essential. Additionally, daughters grow up with a positive example of how men should behave in relationships. Involved fathers also play a vital role in breaking the cycle of violence, as children who experience healthy, non-violent relationships are less likely to resort to violence to express themselves in the future.

 

Youth Sports and Cultural Communities

Engaging young boys in sports and cultural communities can be a powerful tool for promoting gender equality and preventing GBV. Sports teams can create an environment that challenges traditional gender norms.

For instance, coaches can emphasize teamwork and mutual respect, fostering empathy and cooperation among players of all genders. By promoting these values within the team, boys learn the importance of treating everyone fairly and respectfully, regardless of gender.

Similarly, cultural communities provide an opportunity to challenge harmful stereotypes and educate boys on the importance of gender equality. When boys are exposed to diverse cultural practices that value gender equality and respect, they are less likely to develop rigid and discriminatory beliefs about gender roles.

Moreover, involving male community leaders as role models can provide young boys with positive examples of masculinity that prioritize empathy, cooperation, and respect for women and girls.

 

Example:

The “Coaching Boys Into Men” program, implemented in the United States and Canada, uses sports coaches as mentors to teach young athletes about healthy relationships, consent, and respect for others. Studies have shown that participants in this program reported reduced acceptance of violence and more positive attitudes toward women.

 

Mental Health in Men

Addressing men’s mental health is crucial in tackling GBV, as unaddressed mental health issues can contribute to violent behaviours. Research indicates that men are less likely to seek help for mental health problems due to societal expectations of stoicism and emotional suppression. Men may internalize these harmful norms, leading to frustration and aggression as they struggle to cope with emotional challenges.

By promoting mental health awareness and providing accessible support services, men can develop healthier coping mechanisms and communication skills. This, in turn, can reduce the likelihood of engaging in violent behaviour towards others.

Encouraging men to seek help and express their emotions healthily can foster emotional intelligence, empathy, and non-violent conflict resolution.

For instance, organizations like “HeadsUpGuys” in Canada focus on raising awareness about mental health and providing resources for men experiencing depression or anxiety. Initiatives like this aim to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in men and create a more supportive and understanding society.

 

Getting to the ‘Root of the Issue

To effectively end GBV, addressing the root causes, such as patriarchal norms and attitudes perpetuating inequality, is essential. Workshops and educational programs that challenge traditional gender roles can significantly promote empathy, respect, and equality.

These initiatives create opportunities for discussions about masculinity, encouraging men to question harmful beliefs and behaviours they may have learned from society.

 

Example:

The “Men’s Nonviolence Project” in Canada engages men in workshops and training sessions exploring violence’s roots and challenging traditional notions of masculinity. By providing a space for men to unlearn harmful attitudes and develop healthier perspectives on relationships and gender, the program aims to reduce violence and promote gender equality.

 

Importance of Having an Open Conversation

Promoting open conversations about gender equality and GBV is crucial in fostering a culture of respect and understanding. Creating safe spaces for men and boys to discuss their feelings, challenges, and attitudes toward women can help break down harmful stereotypes and encourage accountability.

For instance, school-based programs can facilitate peer discussions about consent and respectful relationships, allowing boys to express their thoughts and concerns openly. This dialogue can increase awareness and a sense of responsibility in addressing GBV.

 

Example:

The “ManTalks” initiative encourages men to converse openly and honestly about masculinity, relationships, and gender equality. Through community events and online platforms, “ManTalks” provides a forum for men to share their experiences, challenge harmful stereotypes, and learn from one another.

 

How Can You Help Yourself? Get Started To End Violence Against Women

 

“Incorporating prevention work with men and boys is essential to creating a safer, more equitable, and violence-free world for women and girls. One of the core challenges is convincing men and boys that the struggle for gender equality also benefits us.”

Addressing gender-based violence (GBV) requires active involvement from men and boys as allies in the fight for gender equality. Engaging men and boys in prevention efforts is crucial because they can significantly challenge harmful norms and behaviours that perpetuate violence against women and girls.

Here are some ways in which individuals can help to end violence against women and promote gender equality:

  • Begin by exercising your behavioural change:

Behavioural change starts with self-reflection and introspection. Take the time to examine your attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls critically. Be open to recognizing any biases or stereotypes you may hold, as these can contribute to gender inequality. Challenge these preconceptions and actively eliminate them from your thoughts and actions. This may involve questioning traditional gender roles and expectations and actively treating everyone with respect and dignity, irrespective of gender.

For example, if you notice yourself making assumptions about a woman’s abilities based on gender stereotypes, consciously challenge those assumptions and give her the same opportunities and respect as anyone else.

Small changes in individual behaviour can add to significant progress towards a more equal and inclusive society.

  • Be a voice for and actively protect women and girls in your family and community:

As an ally in the fight against gender-based violence, it’s essential to be vigilant and ready to intervene when witnessing violence or discrimination. This includes standing up against harmful actions or derogatory remarks perpetuating gender inequality.

In your family, community, or workplace, make it clear that violence or discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Supporting survivors is equally crucial. Encourage them to seek help and access resources such as helplines, support groups, or counselling services.

By offering understanding, empathy, and a safe space for them to share their experiences, you can provide valuable support in their journey toward healing and recovery.

  • Learn to speak out against GBV when you see evidence it is happening:

Silence can inadvertently condone violence and harmful gender norms. When you encounter gender-based violence or witness behaviours that perpetuate inequality, you must speak out and take a stance against such actions. Use your voice to advocate for a culture of respect, equality, and nonviolence.

For instance, if you witness a sexist or offensive joke that degrades women, speak up and express your discomfort with such humour. By voicing your disapproval, you convey that such attitudes are unacceptable in your presence.

  • Use all venues, including social media networks, to influence your peers and networks:

Leverage the power of social media and other platforms to raise awareness about gender-based violence and gender equality. Share informative content, articles, and resources on these issues.

Encourage discussions among your peers by initiating conversations and participating in online debates that promote respect and understanding.

By using your online presence to advocate for gender equality, you contribute to a more significant change movement, reaching a broader audience and inspiring others to take action in their own lives and communities.

  • Volunteer and donate to organizations working to end GBV:

Supporting organizations and initiatives that actively work towards ending gender-based violence is a tangible way to make a difference. Consider volunteering your time to contribute your skills and expertise to relevant projects or campaigns. Alternatively, if you are in a position to do so, consider donating resources or funds to support the vital work these organizations undertake.

Your contributions can help these organizations provide essential services to survivors, conduct awareness campaigns, advocate for policy changes, and implement prevention programs.

Together, collective efforts can significantly impact the ongoing fight against gender-based violence and the empowerment of women and girls.

 

Final Thoughts

So, engaging men and boys in the fight to end gender-based violence and promote gender equality is critical to building a safer, more equitable, and violence-free world for all. Addressing the root causes of gender-based violence, such as patriarchal norms and attitudes, requires the active involvement of men as allies in this endeavour.

We can make significant progress in creating a more inclusive and respectful society by taking positive steps towards involved fatherhood, leveraging youth sports and cultural communities, addressing men’s mental health, and fostering open conversations.

 

Get Involved

Want to get involved? Check out Pathways for Engaging Men & Boys in Gender Justice. If you are a community leader or representative of an organization that wants to build your skills in engaging men & boys in gender justice, or just an individual who wants to work towards gender justice, then this online community is for you!

 

Visit: https://www.pathwaysformenandboys.ca/join-the-community to learn more.