Violence prevention advocacy gains momentum

  • Ilze Smit

Today I find myself amongst colleagues at the Second 5 Days of Violence Prevention Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.Together we are exploring the impact and potential to scale up programmes that prevent violence, and opportunities to engage young and adult men in gender equality initiatives. On Day Two alone, my key take-aways have rather been profound and eye-opening. These are:

  • violence is preventable within a project time frame; and
  • we, as a loose movement, have in fact come a long way!

Below, Wessel van den Berg, Unit Manager of Sonke Gender Justice’s Children’s Rights & Positive Parenting, elaborates on my second take away. True to his work profile on care, he situates where we are now as gender justice advocates working with young and adult men by using the metaphor of a baby who is learning to walk:

“Tonight we are gathered here for the inaugural Sonke lecture, to celebrate Sonke Gender Justice at 10 years, but especially to acknowledge where we find ourselves as a movement.

I would like to suggest the picture of a baby that has just stood up and who is about to learn to walk as a metaphor for where we find ourselves.

What a remarkable achievement!

Since birth, the child strives towards this moment of standing independently, of not requiring another point of stability, and of standing confidently upright, ready to meet the world.

I chose this image because it demonstrates how two legs work together. As a movement, we also have two legs:

On one side, we have the leg of power: of self-determination, of self-actualization, and of the realization of capabilities. On the other, we have the leg of love: of connection, of community, of understanding and empathy.

We need both to walk. If we try and stand on one leg, we will soon fall over.

When we focus too much on self-determination, and achievement, or visibility, without the tempering offered by the other leg of connection, and of the cultivation of relationships, we move into a misuse of power and we run the risk of perpetrating the very violence that we aim to prevent.

When we focus too much on the leg of connection, and movement building, and speaking the same language to each other, without the balance of bold progress and development, our work becomes weak. We run around in sentimental circles.

Nevertheless I do believe that we have now stood up. We still stumble, as we are learning to walk, especially when we try and stand on one leg. But for now we are upright.

Programmes and policies are gaining momentum, our evidence base is expanding as we speak, and the movement is slowly and steadily emerging. The examples of the MenEngage Alliance, the MenCare Campaign, the WhatWorks programmePrevention+IMAGESState of the World’s Fathers, the UNAIDS platform for men and HIV, and the He for She campaign all show that a threshold in our development has been crossed.”

Sonke Gender Justice partners with Rutgers, Promundo and the MenEngage Alliance in the international activities of the Prevention+ programme.

During this week, we are, once again, reaffirming our pledge to search for and scale up viable, inclusive and integrated preventative solutions to end gender-based violence, within our own programme timeframe.