"As many as one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex,
or abused in some other way ... Violence kills and disables as many
women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer. And its toll on women's
health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined."
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Though the need for gender equality extends far beyond the past decade,
the momentum over the past 10 years is finally building to a critical
point where cultural change may actually become a reality. Ending
injustice and eradicating violence against women and girls are prime
focal points this year: we're seeing action in new United Nations
resolutions, focus on women at the Clinton Global Initiative and we're
embracing women's rights as what New York Times columnist Nicholas
Kristof describes as, "the cause of our time." He often quotes a
Chinese proverb, "Women hold up half the sky."
But what about the
other half — men — the ones who most often perpetrate violence against
the women? Who is reaching out to them?
During this week's 10
year commemoration event at New York's UN headquarters,
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the addition of a Network of
Men Leaders to the UNite to End Violence Against Women
campaign. They're joining the ranks of grassroots organizations and
international NGOs who have already recognized that engaging men in the
crusade is not just an ideal — it's essential.
More than ever,
campaigns to raise awareness about the realities of violence and
oppression are sprouting up, organizations are providing services for
victims of abuse, and social entrepreneurs are creating financial
empowerment programs so that women have economic freedom and
Now, specifically, it's time for guys to step up. And they are.
To point: Men Engage is on the forefront of involving men in the solution, conducting research and shaping programs that educate male populations. Vital Voices,
an organization on the receiving end of a $4 million corporate
commitment at this year's Clinton Global Initiative, recognizes the
importance of involving men in the crusade. In fact, the organization has partnered with the Man Up campaign
directed by author/activist/UN Goodwill Ambassador Jimmie Briggs and
former Education Director of Amnesty USA, Karen Robinson Cloete. The
program is using soccer and hip-hop music to infiltrate youth culture
and arm young boys and girls, men and women, with tools and information
for creating their own human rights legacies.
As one example of an organization adding men to the mix, it's worth
breaking down how they plan to do it — in hopes that we can figure out
how to incorporate the messaging into other programs an campaigns.
Here's the bottom line: By employing tools and platforms that speak
directly to youth culture, Man Up aims to cross borders and gender
lines, creating a movement driven specifically by the young people who
are building their own legacies.
Talking exclusively to Tonic,
Briggs and Robinson explained what the big deal is with using music and
sport to carry the message. "I don't know the culture in certain
communities, but the young people do," Robinson says. "We know young
people can create change. We know that. Let's meet them at a place that
is real and authentic." Speaking to young people — boys and girls alike
— through elements of culture that shape their attitudes and
The UNFPA says that domestic violence is "the
result of tacit acceptance by [a] society. The way men view themselves
as men, and the way they view women, will determine whether they use
violence or coercion against women."
Man Up Director of New Media
Fred Sullivan told Tonic that his father "beat him around a bit" as a
kid, and that while he can have compassion for his shortcomings where
expressing emotion is concerned, "Even if motivated by love, if it
comes out as an act of violence, you propagate that violence down the
generations." Now the father of a young girl, he sees the importance of
breaking the cycle.
As Briggs puts it, "We need to redefine what
manhood is." Looking at gender roles is nothing new in this country,
but globally, we need to reassign and re-frame the way we see a
powerful man, one who has the moxy to stand up for his sisters.
today, in sync with the International Day for the Elimination of
Violence Against Women, Man Up is enlisting young people in South
Africa as organized, long-term partners in the initiative. This
campaign -– the 16 Days of Activism -– will run through Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 and establish grassroots commitments from youth activists.
all leads up to a three-day "global youth summit" in South Africa,
synced with the 2010 World Cup and complete with entertainment and
other festivities. Sessions and programs will educate and engage
attendees, leading up to the design of viable plans of action. It's not
just about dreaming abstract dreams; Man Up will provide tools and
guidance, seed grants for execution, and networking with like-minded
youth and powerful international NGO partners. When partnerships
include heavy-hitters like the NoVo Foundation, Vital Voices, V-Day and
Witness, that's saying quite a bit.
Still, amidst all of the
World Cup excitement, Man Up reminds us, "Gender violence is not a
game." It's serious, it's fragmenting and it's catastrophic on a global
Jimmie Briggs admitted that it is no small task — that he
will not likely see the fruits of his labor in this lifetime — but that
like any civil rights movement or any cultural shift, change takes time.
Briggs said, "The most pressing issue? Creating the legacy of our next generations."