A programme developed by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) has been developing influential men in various sectors of the community to work towards the elimination of violence against women with some positive results.
The sixth quadrennial Pacific regional meeting on the elimination of violence against women taking place in Nadi, Fiji has, among other things, discussed ways in which women’s human rights workers can prevent and respond to the mammoth problem of sexual and gender-based violence in the region.
The male advocacy programme for women’s human rights was created a decade ago aimed at educating men on the root causes of violence against women. Male advocates, who include traditional leaders, police officers and service providers, use their knowledge to help other men and boys recognise how violence against women is perpetuated and what they can do to change this.
“The programme was developed after men began approaching the FWCC to ask how they can assist in advocating for the elimination of violence against women after they had undergone some initial gender training such as FWCC’s Regional Training Programme,” said Centre Coordinator Shamima Ali.
“The founding idea was to get these men to learn to identify their own acts of violence and control and change this. In the process they would be helping women to actively promote and protect their rights but not to take over the programme.”
After its success in Fiji, the programme has been extended to the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu. In Fiji, around 100 men have graduated from the programme.
An example of how graduates of the programme can work for change in their communities is that of the officer-in-charge of the Namaka Police Station, Assistant Superintendent of Police Petero Tuinararama.
Working closely with the Nadi Women’s Crisis Centre and a committee against violence against women, ASP Tuinararama has worked towards zero tolerance of violence against women and enforcing a no-drop policy on charges of domestic violence.
Following a Fiji national meeting on violence against meeting in Suva one year ago, ASP Tuinararama immediately led the setting up of an inter-agency committee in Nadi consisting of the police force, village headmen (turaga ni koro), women, youth, faith-based groups, community social workers, volunteers and male advocates.
ASP Tuinararama is also working towards establishing a dedicated unit staffed by trained and sensitised women officers to deal with domestic violence, sexual offences, child abuse and sex tourism.
Ms Ali acknowledged there were some men who had gone through the training but failed to live up to their pledge to examine their own attitudes towards women and their use of violence.
“Of course there are some men who have gone through the training and have not been good examples, but it’s also about the calibre of the man and his willingness to confront the issues that are at the core of violence against women and girls,” said Ms Ali.
Highlighted internationally as an example of best practice in addressing violence against women, FWCC’s male advocacy programme ensures men address their own violence and coercive control before they can become effective role models.
The male advocacy programme is grounded in a human rights framework to increase men’s awareness of gender equality and holds these men accountable to the women’s movement with which they work.
Stephen Fisher, an Australian male advocate trainer and a masculinities expert, explained that the male advocacy programme was shown to be more effective than programmes that attempted to work with perpetrators to change their behaviours.
While perpetrator programmes may be useful in some settings, generally they required vast resources, time and monitoring of participants to be successful. Similarly, men-initiated and led programmes and those which did not take women’s human rights as a starting point often failed.
The regional meeting on violence against women heard that prevention and response programmes are most often interlinked and that successful ones involved a multi-sectoral approach.
In Vanuatu, for example, the Committees Against Violence Against Women (CAVAWs) developed by the Vanuatu Women’s Centre have been successful in mobilising the community to create awareness and encourage community participation in the work towards elimination of violence against women.
The Pacific women’s network meeting which ends in Nadi today is attended by 45 participants from 13 Pacific countries, who will finalise a work plan for the next four years to strategically tackle violence against women and girls.
For comments and clarification, please call FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali on +679 9992 875.