And, it's taught by four amazing men!
We dreamed SGUW would have programming targeting boys and now we've done it. With the help of our incredible staff and advisors in Sierra Leone, we've developed a workshop training for boys covering gender-based violence, toxic v. positive masculinity, gender roles and drug and alcohol abuse. This two-day workshop is currently underway in Freetown and wrapped up in Bo earlier this week.
Breaking the Silence, Building a Safer Future
(for boys and girls)
We know that gender inequality and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in West Africa, as in many other regions, is a complex issue with roots deeply embedded in cultural, social, economic, and political factors. It's essential to recognize these factors contributing to the perpetuation of inequality and GBV in order to eradicate them. Here are some key roots and contributing factors we explore in the boys workshops:
Cultural Norms and Gender Roles-Traditional gender norms often reinforce unequal power dynamics between men and women. Stereotypical expectations regarding masculinity and femininity can lead to the normalization of violence against women and perpetuate gender inequality.
Patriarchal Societal Structures- Many West African societies including Sierra Leone have historically been patriarchal, with power and decision-making concentrated in male hands. This imbalance of power contributes to the perpetuation of GBV.
Economic Inequality- Economic disparities between men and women contributes to power imbalances in relationships. Economic dependency may limit the options available to women and make them more vulnerable to violence.
Limited Access to Education- Limited educational opportunities for women perpetuates unequal power dynamics. Education empowers individuals and communities and is crucial in challenging and changing harmful gender norms.
Lack of Legal Protection- Inadequate legal frameworks or enforcement mechanisms can contribute to the perpetuation of GBV. Weaknesses in the legal system may allow perpetrators to act with impunity even when there are good laws on the books as is the case in Sierra Leone.
Conflict and Instability- Regions affected by conflict such as Sierra Leone often experience an increase in social inequality and GBV. Displacement, breakdown of social structures, and the presence of armed groups exacerbate vulnerabilities.
Harmful Traditional Practices-Some traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, contribute to the perpetuation of inequality and violence against women.
Social Stigma and Silence-Stigma surrounding GBV discourages reporting and seeking help. Social norms that discourage discussing or addressing violence contribute to a culture of silence. It is essential to bring GBV out of the shadows in order to see its harms and break the stigma.
Media Influence-Media portrayal of gender roles reinforces stereotypes and contribute to the normalization of violence. Negative portrayals of women contributes to a culture that tolerates or ignores GBV.
Lack of Male Involvement- The absence of men as allies in the fight against inequality and GBV contributes to the perpetuation of harmful behaviors. Engaging men and boys in prevention efforts is crucial.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse-Substance abuse, including alcohol, can contribute to violent behavior. Substance abuse may be both a cause and a consequence of GBV.
Addressing inequality and GBV in Sierra Leone requires comprehensive efforts that consider the interconnectedness of these factors. The strategies used by SGUW recognize this and our programming reflects it. Our efforts include supporting legal reforms, education, community engagement, economic empowerment, and challenging harmful cultural norms. The Boys Initiative is one part of this comprehensive approach.