Can strong women challenge social norms that will lead change to end gender violence, increase access to justice for survivors and advance women rights?
Yes. But to truly advance equality, it is going to take a few good men.
In countries where we work patriarchy can seem entrenched — in families, in schools, in communities, in government, and in industry. But there are strong forces of change too. Many governments have endorsed UN conventions and passed legislation criminalizing Female Genital mutilation, child marriage, and gender-based violence. Some countries are seeing more women elected to office. But in our work, we continue to see the devastating impact of entrenched norms and systemic biases that deprive women of their rights and put them at greater risk of violence.
At Crossroads, men are joining with local partners to challenge harmful social norms that diminish the rights of women and girls. In Ghana, we see it in local community members and traditional chiefs working with us to improve legal literacy and increase access to justice. In Tanzania we see it in local volunteers initiating new economic measures which aim to reduce FGM by creating sustainable income sources for practitioners and families. In Senegal we see in our partners in a new initiative to increase climate change resilience with women subsistence farmers. And we see it in Canadian volunteers who are helping shape and launch innovative programs to engage boys and men in advancing equality.
Take Randell Adjei, Founder of RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) a youth arts organization in Toronto and and Anthony Gebrehiwot, RISE team member, passionate community leader and social entrepreneur who just returned from a volunteer stint in Ghana. In an interview with NOW Magazine Randall said they call themselves art-ivists, and RISE a movement of people finding their voices, looking to discover themselves and find their purpose and make the world a better place. Randall says the brand they built is known for “making positivity cool”. Both young men recognize the important role of mentorship in boys and youth and both practice non-toxic masculinity.
Randell and Anthony recently returned from Ghana on their second assignment with Crossroads where they are working with local partners; DUNK, a local organization that supports boys living in poverty by nurturing these young students-athletes to become agents of change; to help shape and launch an innovative pilot program Boys4Change, a program that challenges and engages boys in the fight for gender equality. The pair were so inspired by the commitment from the boys, they plan to support our local partner WILDAF in their pitch to Ghana’s Ministry of Education so it can used across the whole region’s school system.
Then there is Robert Trudel and William Fortin, who in 2018 supported a Court Watch initiative in Ghana, monitoring the application of that country’s domestic violence legislation. Result: there is more work to do to ensure resources allocated and decisions made on prosecutions are more representative of women’s rights.
This volunteer week, we at Crossroads salute all volunteers taking action to build a better world. Check out recent Crossroaders making a difference and especially we want to give a shout out to the more than few good men who are challenging social norms and working to advance gender quality.