Both men and women are victims, survivors and perpetrators of violence. However, statistics shows that overwhelmingly, violence and discrimination is directed against women and girls. In Africa, the most prevalent forms of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) reported and documented, include, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), which manifests in physical, sexual or psychological violence by an intimate partner; Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is a common cultural practice in some parts of Africa; Early Child and Forced Marriage where girls below 18 years are forced into marriage; as well as Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC) which includes rape, sexual assault with violent physical assault, kidnapping, sexual slavery and forced prostitution in conflict situations.
Over the years, the African Union has been relentless in its efforts to address the scourge of violence against women and girls on the continent. It has developed and adopted strategies and guiding legal instruments that focus on the attainment of gender equality and women's empowerment in all spheres of life in Africa including developing and implementing policies and programmes that address issues related to women and girls’ rights, advocate for their protection and prohibit violence and harmful practices and other social norms. These frameworks have enabled member states and other non-state actors to adopt additional laws and strategies at the national and regional levels to address the existing and emerging challenges on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The different frameworks by the African Union include various binding and non-binding legal instruments include the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), , the AU Strategy for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Additional initiatives such as the African Union Initiative on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, the Saleema intiative, which is designed to galvanise political action to accelerate the elimination of the harmful practice. The Spotlight Initiative, a collaboration with partners is focused on ending violence against women and girls globally. The men’s conference, advocating for positive masculinity.
Majority of violence against women and girls is perpetrated by men. While most men may never condone the use of violence, the fact is that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. This status quo is often heightened in times of socio-economic crises, such as that experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic which had a dramatic increase in gender-based violence that was referred to as the shadow pandemic.
Despite decades of efforts, particularly from women and women’s organisations, violence against women and girls in Africa remains the most widespread and socially accepted form of human rights violations, cutting across borders, race, class, ethnicity, and religion. The efforts over the years have mainly being by women, for women and with women, as they seek to address the vices mostly propagated by men. However, in recent times, there has been a greater realization that sustainable impact can only be achieved through collective actions and response mechanisms that involve men and boys.
Gender transformative approaches have increasingly sought to interrogate and understand men and masculinities, as well as to analyse the experiences, attitudes, roles, and responsibilities of men and boys, and how these influence behaviour, social norms, policy-making, and gender equality. This is the genesis of the “Positive Masculinity Initiative” by the African Union led by the Women, Gender and Youth directorate and the Office of the Special Envoy of Women, Peace and Security, in collaboration with the African Women’s Leaders Network.
This initiative is hinged on engaging men and boys to support the broader movement for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE). Positive masculinity has been found to be crucial to ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls.
Positive Masculinity is a critical lens through which we can reshape masculinities in ways that promote healthy, peaceful, individual and social well-being for all. Globally, campaigns such as HeForShe and other local initiatives across Africa, have explored innovative solutions to engage men and boys from all walks of life as allies in gender equality, and ending all forms of violence against women and girls. It is an African Union Framework that aims to break the cycle of violence against women and girls.
Therefore, the Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity focuses on involving men in positions of leadership and influence to engage other men and boys in efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, and end gender inequalities, as a critical means to transform structural and institutional inequalities.
The Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity seeks to strengthen accountability by men, who also become better role models for boys, by urging them to be champions of change. Men;s Conference engages male leaders across different sectors, including Heads of States and government; men in the private sector; religious and traditional leaders; civil society organisations; men in academia; and the youth, intended as a strategy to accelerate the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls in Africa at all levels. Women leaders are equally engaged to ensure inclusivity in the efforts. Women rights are human rights.
In 2021, the African Heads of State and Government also adopted the “Kinshasa Declaration” expressing their concern on the persistence of violence against women and girls in Africa, and adopting far-reaching recommendations and a call-to-action to prevent and eradicate all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
Led by Heads of State and Government from the Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, committed to ensuring that the necessary policies and measures are put in place by Member States to address any form of impunity while at the same time launching the Circle of Champions to advance the participatory and intergenerational approach that engages all stakeholders, including youth, religious and traditional leaders, civil society, and African women leaders and the private sector, to amplify the call to action to end the harmful and discriminatory practices in the societies. In advocating for positive masculinity, the society agrees that women rights are human rights.
Watch the High-Level African Women Leaders Pre-Conference on- https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1ZPC-WLnSaiGgPj4joQ9Yw
In 2022, the Men’s Conference will focus on advancing actions and promoting positive masculinity to end violence against women and girls.” Learn more about the Conference by visiting https://au.int/en/newsevents/20221110/2nd-mens-conference-positive-mascu...
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union (AU).