Mr. Rebates

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Engaging Men to Protect and Empower Women

During conflict, women are uniquely vulnerable to violence and exploitation. They are at risk
of sexualized violence as a tool of war and of partner and domestic violence always. Victims
of sexual and gender-based violence are often stigmatized and face enormous obstacles
trying to provide for a family with limited social support, resources or education. Women for
Women International (WfWI) believes that women are society’s bellwethers. When women
are empowered in education and employment, society as a whole benefits. When women
are deprived of opportunities and trapped in cycles of victimization, social stability is at risk.

As such, Women for Women International works
to achieve social and economic development
through women’s empowerment. We work with
women survivors of war to provide them with
tools and resources to leverage themselves and
their communities out of poverty. We also work
with traditional, civic and military leaders—
men—to engage them as advocates and allies for
women. To date, we have piloted our Men’s
Leadership Program (MLP) in four countries.

WfWI understands that in order to achieve our ultimate goal—establishing viable civil
societies where men and women work together as partners in peace and prosperity—we
must engage both women and men in our quest for change.

The Men’s Leadership Program

Women for Women International’s Men’s Leadership Program sensitizes male leaders to
crucial women’s rights issues and prepares them to leverage their community influence on
behalf of women. Covering topics on post-war community rebuilding, violence against
women, reproductive and family health, and women’s community participation, MLP session
objectives (below) are tailored to each country’s specific social codes and gender norms.
• Train and educate community and traditional leaders on violence against women and
its impact on the community;

• Enhance the capacity of community and traditional leaders to develop strategies to
address the varied impact of violence against women on the community;
The Women for Women
International Men’s Leadership
Program has trained over 2,100
male community leaders in
Afghanistan, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Iraq, and
During the conflict and war in Afghanistan, relationships between men and women became worse. Men
do not respect women as human beings, and incidents of violence and abuse against women have
increased. Women are used to resolve debts or conflicts between families – men who cannot pay back
their loans will give their sisters or daughters to the lender instead, while the women involved have no
say in the matter. – Sweeta Noori; WfWI-Afghanistan Country Director
• Build awareness of how leaders can be more responsive to issues of concern to
different sectors of their communities/constituencies.
• Help leaders become more aware of the factors affecting the development of their
communities, ranging from economic and political participation of women, to health
issues such as HIV/AIDS.
• Give leaders a forum in which to discuss their ideas for a stronger community where
men and women are equally respected and valued.


MLP participants are culled from traditionally
male-dominated, critical sectors of society. These
sectors often include government, religious
groups, police, military, traditional institutions,
and civil society. The leadership roles that these
men hold in their communities allow them to
reach out to other men, spread awareness and
mobilize men to actively advocate for
greater respect for women’s rights, thereby
facilitating community development by engaging
both men and women as partners.

MLP training typically begins with 50 male leaders, known as “Level One” participants, who
are trained by WfWI staff or specially-retained Men’s Leadership consultants. They are
trained on topics including the value of women and girls, female participation in family and
community decision-making, violence against women, and personal and family health.
The second stage of the MLP focuses on training participants on how to further educate men
in their respective constituencies. Upon completing the MLP, each “Level One” participant
commits to training at least 10 to 15 other local men, called “Level Two” participants, on
MLP topics. MLP participants thus become agents of change in their communities.

Functional working groups, the third component of the MLP, allow community and traditional
leaders to develop strategies to promote women’s participation in family and community life
and to stem the tide of gender-based violence. These working groups are comprised of MLP
participants, as well as local men and women community members who come together to
share ideas on how to promote women’s rights, prevent gender-based violence, and protect
victims of rape and sexual violence from stigmatization and exclusion. Working groups
provide a forum for community members at various levels to work together toward viable
solutions to gender inequity and violence against women in their communities.

To date, we have trained over 2,000 male leaders, to great success. Graduates are more
aware of women’s rights, committed to preventing violence against women and supporting
survivors, and more likely to view women as equal partners in the home and community.
Women for Women International believes that when women are well, sustain an income, are
decision-makers, and have strong social networks and safety-nets, they are in a much
stronger position to advocate for their rights. Women’s progress will not be sustained
without the active engagement and support of male traditional, civic, and military
leaders. As we have learned in 16 years of development and humanitarian practice, when
women and men together understand and advocate for women’s rights and participation in
society, dramatic, societal change is possible.

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