24 year old, Kisa Kasifa from Uganda is studying development studies at Makerere University. Kisa also volunteers on the Restless Development MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank. A project which trains young people to do research on important issues. Kisa recently took part in the UN Women 16 days of activism to end violence against women.
Gender based violence is defined as harm inflicted on a person because of their sex. Over the years, women have been the biggest victims of violence in the world and Uganda respectively. The violence against women and girls report from Uganda Police Force shows the following statistics on the different forms of violence. Defilement and domestic violence were the leading crimes in the country making up 20% of 253,065 reported crimes: 56% of women of ages 15-49 experience domestic violence and 46% of these women are afraid to report their partner: 1 in 5 girls in Uganda experience sexual violence in their life time. These are some of the highest rates in the world.
As part of the global ‘16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence’ campaign, a fire site chat locally termed as “Wang-oo” was organized by UN Women to conduct a dialogue with men on Gender Based Violence. Traditionally in Uganda, men sit around a fire to have conversations and learn new things from each other. These conversations are often where boys learn about different aspects of masculinity and how men should behave. These male stereotypes that are learnt often negatively impact women and reinforce damaging gender roles.
The conversations were focused on unlearning some of the negative stereotypes that have been taught about masculinity, in order to build positive attitudes within the men present.
Men from the discussion often attributed gender based violence to lack of marital training and guidance. The current generation lacks this knowledge, which leaves many unable to know how to handle marital issues. Some conflicts are believed to arise out of disagreement on gender roles.
Family background is another outstanding cause of domestic violence. A child is a product of their home environment, which is the first place they learn to socialise. From childhood, boys are often treated differently from girls. Boys are sometimes treated as more valuable to girls in the household, leading them to grow up believing that their status is above women. These beliefs are then transferred into their own family homes. What happens when children socialize in schools and places of worship is also crucial as these environments can build on what is seen at home.
Some men during the Fire Site chat attributed Gender Based Violence to growing up in violent families. Men who grow up witnessing their mothers being beaten by their fathers are sometimes raised to believe that is normal behaviour. In some home environments, women are expected to sexually satisfy men, often resulting in sexual assault and harassment.
How can we solve this puzzle of Gender based violence?
Men from the fire site chat made the following recommendations.
- Positive behaviour of love should be enhanced in families. This will serve as an example to the young boys and they will learn how to treat women as equal.
- Women should be engaged in decision making in the household to avoid conflicts. At a national level, women should have a key role in decision making.
- Social institutions such as schools, churches, universities and mosques, need to strengthen training and guidance for men. In particular, young men because it is easy to build a strong boy than repair a broken man.
- Guidance should be given to people before marriage to avoid physical violence and sexual harassment.
- Men should be at the fore front of fighting gender based violence. Stories of successful men in this arena should be shared publicly to serve as role models for their communities.