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Men And Boys: The Missing Link In Solutions To Gender Based Violence

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
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Violence against women and girls is a huge challenge and an obstacle to development across the world. It has been recognized as an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. In recent years, there is an increased reportage or incidences of violence against women and girls across the world. There is no doubt that accelerated development which is greatly needed across the world cannot take place without addressing the challenges of violence against women and girls.

The problem of violence against women is a global phenomenon. The World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicates that at least one in five of the world’s female population, has been physically or sexually abused by a man or men at some point in their life. Violence against women is not only a human rights issue but also a development issue because of the link between poverty, human insecurity and violence.

In this article, I argue that men and boys constitute the missing link in the plausible solutions to gender based violence.

Over the years, scholars and development practitioners have outlined the programmatic actions that can be taken to end gender based violence. They include: Speaking  Out, Creating  Awareness, Research, Advocacy Campaigns, Provision of services to victims of violence, Abolition of harmful traditional practices, Legal reform, reform of law enforcement, and emphasizing the role of men.


Over the years, all the above actions have been undertaken but in most cases with little involvement of men and boys. But in recent years, there is a compelling argument on why men and boys should be involved in eliminating violence against women and girls. A tool kit on ending abuse developed by the Family Violence Prevention Fund  (USA)listed ten top reasons for working with men and boys[i]:

  • Many women want men to step up and take a stand against violence.
  • Most men do not agree with men’s violence, yet they do nothing to challenge or stop it-these men need to be mobilized to prevent violence.
  • Some men are already working to prevent violence but lack support, many more would like to get involved, but don’t know how.
  • Men commit most of the violence against women. So it is up to them to stop it-take responsibility.
  • Men are not born violent. They learn violence and become violent because of beliefs and norms about what it is to be a man. Work with men and boys can change those beliefs and norms and support men in rejecting violence.
  • Men have the potential to stop violence. Not only can they choose to not perpetuate acts of violence, they can choose to challenge the attitudes and assumptions that support gender-based violence.
  • Gender based violence has continued despite years of anti-violence work. The missing link is effective violence prevention work with men.
  • Men experience violence too-many are survivors from childhood but very few get the support they need to heal them of their experiences.
  • Men and boys listen to their peers-we need to mobilize men and boys to spread the violence prevention message in their families, work places and communities.
  • Decision makers and opinion leaders are mostly men. We need to work with them to get the political, financial and moral support necessary to prevent gender-based violence.
  • Men and boys can engage in practical work to eliminate violence against women by speaking out publicly against violence against women; working on themselves to change their attitude and behaviour; serve as mentor or good role model for others to emulate; take action as a neighbour, friend, classmate, co-worker, teammate or even someone unknown to you whenever you encounter violence against women or work as allies with women to eliminate violence against women.

There is no doubt that men and boys can make a huge difference if they can understand the nature of gender based violence, its root causes and negative impact and they get involved in efforts to end it. It is crucial that men and boys understand how their views of gender based violence has been socially constructed so that it can be deconstructed. If men and boys can be empowered with the skills and confidence to deconstruct their views on GBV, then they can commit themselves to become agents of change. Men and boys as agents of change armed with information and commitment can take individual and collective action against GBV. Men and boys taking action against GBV can lead to reduction and eventual elimination of GBV.

The United Nations’ Secretary General Network of Men Leaders was launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon in December, 2012 as part of the growing effort to include men and boys as part of the solution to ending violence against women. The network supports the work of women around the world to defy destructive stereotypes, embracing equality and inspire men and boys everywhere to speak out against violence.

The network is set up in recognition of the fact that many men are uncomfortable with stereotypical and violent behavior towards women and would intervene to end violence against women and girls.



The Network of Men Leaders to end VAW, Nigeria is to provide a platform for leaders in Nigeria to advocate for, and provide guidance and direction to end violence against women and girls within their communities. Men Leaders who are members of the network will be involved in advocacy, providing guidance and direction and highlighting good practices and deploring bad examples.


The responsibilities of members of the Network will include:


  • Actively advocate for zero tolerance of violence against women and girls of all ages
  • Promote publicly, through the media, and other avenues as appropriate, a positive role model of men preventing violence against women and girls;
  • Support women’s and men’s organizations and networks and, through leadership and by example, support their efforts to end violence against women and girls.


All members of the network must fulfil the criteria below:

  • Commitment to use all appropriate avenues to work to bring an end to all forms of violence against women and girls
  • Commitment not to engage in any actions or activities that will jeopardize the work to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls.
  • Affirmation that the member has never used nor condoned violence against women and girls.
  • Commitment to use time, energy and resources to work to end violence against women and girls.

Gender based violence is a huge challenge and an obstacle to development across the world. There are plausible solutions to end GBV. These solutions of necessity include the involvement of men and boys but this is a great missing link in the struggle to end GBV. In the future, all efforts and programmes must include the involvement of men and boys. The United Nations has provided us with a platform to mobilise men and boys. All men and women of goodwill and good conscience should support this platform to contribute to end GBV not only in Nigeria but across the world.

Dr Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, leadership development scholar and practitioner, social activist and researcher. He is the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD).

Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source

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