One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime.
So much time, talent, and effort have been committed to changing this terrible statistic, to recognizing the life and humanity in each one of those women. Sustainable change is dependent on reshaping our global culture in a way that teaches men individually to respect women and value them as equals in society.
Treating violence against women as a discrete issue or a problem with a single cause is ignoring the larger picture in which the cycle of violence exists. We can’t tackle small single issues and hope for lasting change. If we want to stop violence against women and the baseline of inequality from which it springs, we must look at all aspects of the problem: From the sense of entitlement that some use to harass and exert power over women to the tolerance and silence toward violence. And we must think about how we disrupt the beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate injustice. Too often we think of violence against women as a problem that belongs solely to women, but change is a structural problem that involves all of us. Violence has a physical cost, a psychological cost, a social cost, and a financial cost. Eventually, we all — men and women — pay for it.
The Womanity Foundation has established an annual Award, given to organizations whose work reduces or prevents violence against women through innovative solutions that can be replicated and scaled. This work aims to collaborate across cultures, resulting in permanent, sustainable change.
The first grantees of the Womanity Award, Promundo and Abaad, are currently working together on Program H, which “promotes group education sessions combined with youth-led campaigns and activism to transform stereotypical roles associated with gender.” As Joseph Vess, Senior Program Official at Promundo, explains, Program H educates young men and empowers them to change their attitudes about masculinity, which impacts their own lives and the lives of women around them:
After participating in Program H activities, young men have reported many positive changes, from higher rates of condom use and improved relationships, to a greater willingness to take on domestic work and lower rates of sexual harassment and violence against women. The results of eight, mostly quasi-experimental studies on Program H around the world have found evidence of positive changes among program participants: from more gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors generally, to improved couple communication, reduced gender-based violence, increased condom use, and improved attitudes around caregiving.
Abaad Executive Director Anthony Keedi shares his own story in his recentSpark talk about the teasing he endured after being spotted kissing his father — and how he found he could “get back up the totem poll” of respect by fighting back with violence. He learned two important things that day: That men should not be overly affectionate or show emotion, especially with other men, and that violence could solve problems. His story is a story that will be familiar to many men, no matter where they’re from. These experiences instill in all of us obligations to adhere to strict gender roles.
Abaad and Promundo are working together to create safe spaces for the implementation of Program H, empowering young men to give life to their own conversations around gender roles and relationships — especially in contexts where Abaad and Promundo might not be able to broach those delicate topics themselves. Though young men might have a real need to talk about more sensitive topics related to gender, sexuality, and relationships, adults might not be so keen on those things being discussed.
This driving force of changing cultural conversations from the bottom up — as a real grassroots effort by organizations on the ground helping young men question their attitudes and the ways they’ve been socialized without, perhaps, even realizing it — is what will drive real, lasting change. Renewed and refreshed attitudes about gender roles benefit men and the women in their lives. The Womanity Foundation is honored to be have such an empowering set of organizations as the grantees of its first Award.
This year, we are excited to announce the next Womanity Award and its theme: using new technologies to combat violence against women. As technology becomes more accessible to underserved communities and more ingrained in the fabric of everyday life worldwide, so too, does the opportunity to use technology as a tool for change. The next edition of the Award will highlight programs that are adapting new technologies to prevent violence against women and support expansion of this work with technical expertise, investment, learning opportunities, and other relevant resources.