Across the Globe, women and men are socialized and nurtured differently. In Kenya, girls and boys experience different power dynamics because of their upbringing and education. According to Spronk, R. (2014), boys are socialized to be sexually adventurous and aggressive to demonstrate their manhood, whereas girls are encouraged to be pure, and obedient. In a study about non-consensual sexual experiences of young people in Kenya, young men indicated they could compel girls to have sex because they are worried of being labeled as “not man enough” if they do not have sex.
Furthermore, young males in Egypt and Palestine continue to hold unequal beliefs about gender roles, many of which are influenced by religious interpretations and teachings. In addition, a study conducted by the Danish Church Aid (DCA), the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD), and the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) revealed that young men in South Sudan restrict the role of women to the home with remarks like “The role of women in society is giving birth and sharing the household chores.”
The above scenarios bring us to the issue of masculinities. Masculinities are those behaviours, languages and practices, existing in specific cultural and organisational locations, which are commonly associated with men, thus culturally defined as not feminine (Whitehead,2002). Masculinities are created by the society we live in. These notions and ideals are shaped by social institutions, including official and informal laws, social norms, and behaviors. They pertain to perceptions held by both men and women about how “real” men behave and, more crucially, how men are required to behave in particular contexts in order to be called “real men.” Masculinities are learnt via social interactions from early childhood through adolescence and adulthood and passed down from generation to generation rather than being innate or connected to biological maleness.
The possibility of negative effects of harmful masculinity occurs when negative masculine ideals are upheld. Culture dictates that men should be dominant and aggressive in order to maintan patriachal standards (Levant et al., 2003). In their lifetime, one in three women and girls will endure physical and/or sexual abuse; that is 1 billion women and girls in the globe. Every sector and level of society is home to acts of violence against women and girls, including rape, physical abuse, harassment, and discrimination. According to statistics, men and boys are more likely than women and girls to commit SGBV; therefore, a primary focus of our work is to change the social norms that encourage male violence against women and girls as well as the individual knowledge and behavior of men and boys (Perrin, Nancy, et al.).
In order to foster more gender-equitable connections between young women and men, Faith to Action Network is working on promoting a gender-transformative programming approach that focuses on changing unequal gender norms and the ensuing behaviors and attitudes. The approach is adapted from the Tearfund Transforming Masculinities Approach that has extensively been used in Muslim and Christian communities across the globe. Faith to Action Network is working with faith leaders, young women, young men, together with women and men in communities to fight Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) by seeking to transform negative attitudes and behaviors at the individual, relationship, and household levels
As a first step of rolling out the approach, Faith to Action Network conducted a Training of Trainers (TOT) for Lead Actors on Promoting Positive Masculinities from July 11–15 in Nairobi, Kenya. Twenty-nine people from Egypt, South Sudan, and Kenya participated in the training and received skills on facilitation and knowledge on the content to deliver as they facilitate positive masculinities dialogues in the community. The Lead Actors are faith leaders, women from women rights organizations (WROs) where the project is implemented, young women, young men, women rights champions from faith institutions, and men from the community (elders and opinion leaders). Through this approach, the equality and well-being of all people is valued with the goal of advancing gender justice through a gender transformative paradigm that is grounded in religious beliefs.
The post training evaluation pointed to an interesting trend in changed attitudes among participants compared to their attitude before training. Participants were eager to express their overall impressions of the training. Michael Youhanna from The Egyptian Family House expressed his feelings as follows:
“Positive masculinity is for men to realize that they should not remain silent and do nothing about issues of discrimination and gender-based violence, but use all their abilities to support and advocate for women to combat negative (toxic) masculinity”
The male participants strongly felt that they have a big role to play in ending harmful practices as was said by one of the participants:
“Traditions are not static and can change, it is our role to end all harmful traditions and accept that as men we are not better than our sisters. Both women and men are needed to contribute to the growth and stability of any community.”, Mading Monywut from Presbyterian Church
In conclusion, the Lead Actors will conduct structured community dialogues and conversations, each in their peer group using a Community Dialogues manual. They will keep track of and document community changes of attitudes and behaviors.
The positive masculinities training and approach is implemented as part of Young Women for Awareness, Agency, Advocacy and Accountability (YW4A) project. Faith to Action Network is working with Tearfund and partners in Egypt, Kenya, South Sudan, and Palestine to enhance positive masculinities r to impact men’s long-term behavior and practices for decreased sexual and gender-based violence.
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