I know that you hear of violence against your friends, sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers in the media or in your community. I know that you see who is most often the perpetrator of the violence: men. Maybe you see your friends, brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers in the faces of these men. I’m sure it is difficult to understand why this is happening.
Have you ever been told that it is okay to hit a girl? That she deserves physical punishment for something she has done? Have you seen this punishment being inflicted? How did it make you feel?
Inflicting violence on your friends, sisters, mothers, aunts or grandmothers is wrong. For those who perpetuate this behaviour in the name of culture or religion, is misinterpreting. How can we make the world a better place if half of the population is thought of as less than the other half?
Do you wonder how things can change? The good news is that you can be part of the solution. In fact, you are needed to be part of the solution. It starts with questioning this type of behaviour and the mindset that allows it to occur. Think about the females you know in your life: are they intelligent? resourceful? creative? What if they were given equal opportunities to their male counterparts? Imagine how much more they would blossom!
You must also look within, which is probably the most difficult part. Have you been told that you need to be the hero? The provider? The one who “stays strong” by not crying? That you need to “be a man”? Contrary to this type of thinking, “being a man” is not about physical strength, control over women, power over others or not being emotional.
“Being a man” means working with others, male and female, in order to work towards common goals. It means becoming the ally of women and noticing their equality and rights. True strength lies not in the violence you can inflict but the amount of good you can do, the resilience you find in the face of adversity, and the listening skills you develop in order to empathize with others.
That is true strength.
In your relations to girls, true strength means walking side by side, encouraging new ideas to bloom, supporting each other when life becomes challenging, and working together to make sure that everyone reaches their potential.
There is enough of whatever you seek to go around; do not think that by including girls in the conversation that you will lose something. In fact, you will gain more than you can imagine. Just try it and see what happens. Do not let beliefs that limit girls’ voices be a part of these conversations. They do not belong there. They do not belong anywhere.
Making these shifts in your beliefs might be difficult because they are ingrained and habituated, but just as they were learned by you over the years, they can be unlearned by you as well. They must be.
That is what it truly means to be a man.Voices Against Gender-Based Violence