In a recent speech DFID’s parliamentary representative, Stephen O’Brien supports the need to work with men and boys to promote gender equality and applauds the work of One Man Can.
Building on these successes, DFID is now planning a new 4 year programme in South Africa to prevent physical and sexual violence. This will continue to work with boys and men to address violent masculinities and provide alternative role models for them.
Now, consider this simple fact: in some parts of Africa, half of all girls are married by the time they reach the age of 15. Parts of Ethiopia have the highest rates of child marriage in Africa. But early marriage doesn’t have to be inevitable, as the results of a DFID pilot project in northern Ethiopia has shown.
That project helped a whole community to come together to have a ‘community conversation’ about the consequences of young marriage. When project staff spoke to the young men in particular, they were struck by the difference in their attitudes compared with the older generation. Several of the boys said that they did not want to marry child brides. They wanted girls to speak up for themselves.
Over the course of the 18 month pilot, not one of the 376 participating girls married. Instead, they stayed in school.
Building on this successful pilot British aid will now help 200,000 girls directly – and many more indirectly – to delay their marriages and to stay in school.
And we will work with men and boys to achieve that by continuing ‘community conversations’ which lead to a collective decision by the community to end the practice.
Finally, I would like to reflect on a personal case of a former notorious gang member in Jamaica. For this man, the need for a change in lifestyle only dawned on him after the birth of his son, when he enrolled in a DFID supported vocational skills training programme.
He was interested in learning but he struggled with feelings of anger and aggression. During training, he was exposed to weekly Life Skills sessions which allowed for reflection and introspection on his life. During one session he shared that his mother died when he was seven years old and his father had played no role in his life.
The Life Skills support helped him to redefine his life. He went on to complete level two of the vocational training. He has subsequently been recruited by the Men with a Message initiative which uses former gang members to promote non-violence in schools and communities across Jamaica.
I’m proud to say that, in Jamaica, where young men are 10 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than in the rest of the world, DFID is supporting a new Citizen Security and Justice Programme over 2011-13.
The new programme builds on clear evidence which showed that targeting violence prevention programmes at male youth can reduce gender-based violence and will provide personal and material security for girls and women in communities which suffer from high levels of poverty and violence.
The programme will improve security, and deliver basic services and economic opportunities to 50 of the most volatile communities in Jamaica.
DFID support will help to establish community development committees; provide parenting education programmes for over 11,000 at risk families; and provide training for over 11,000 women and men on violence prevention, anti-violence and conflict-resolution.
These examples are just a few which highlight the importance of engaging boys and men to build happier, more prosperous and fairer and safer lives. They also illustrate that investing in equality not only benefits girls and women, but boys and men also.
Understanding what it means to be boy or a man in different societies, and how that can have positive and negative consequences is the basis for working them as partners to improve their lives, and the lives of girls and women.
I completely and fully endorse on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government Plan’s report: boys and men must be seen as a crucial part of the solution, not simply as part of the problem. Thank you.
Last updated: 13 Oct 2011
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