Thursday, March 12, 2009

End Violence Against Women

Change in socialisation process to end violence

oday marks a very important day for women all over the world. It is the International Women’s Day — a day that is marked worldwide by women across all continents to look back to a tradition that represents a struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

This is 34th year since the United Nations in 1975 found it necessary to pay homage to women and give the world a chance to look at how women were faring. Today we can look back and see the fruits of this struggle. We can see women sitting on thrones as queens and presidents. We can see women attending school, qualifying as doctors and engineers. We can see women giving orders as CEOs and flying big jumbo jets and jet fighters across the skies as pilots. We can see women carrying voter’s card and Identity cards as well as passports.

With these successes there are still many gaps that remain to be filled. One area remains with a big gaping hole that has taken too long to fill as many still trip and fall into it. This is the area of violence. Violence against women goes on in the inside of our homes to the outside at places of work. It takes all forms and shapes.

That is why this year the world wants an end to violence against women. The theme is "Men and women working together to end violence against women".

Women alone cannot end the violence and neither can the men alone. We must all together — men and women — join hands and bring to an end this act that often leaves its victim dead, if not maimed.

Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace.

Fundamental freedoms

Violence against women both violates and impairs the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. That by subjecting a woman to whatever form of violence you are in effect affecting her status as a mother, wife or sister.

A prominent saying among my people goes something like: "There are no spare parts shops for body parts". What this in effect means is that when one part of your body is damaged there will be no replacement for it as there is no shop where you can go and order a replacement Men have been known to beat their partners for the flimsiest reason. To these men, there is no difference between their female partners and children. Yet the women are supposed to be equal partners in the relationship.

We need to change our socialisation process by bringing up our sons to appreciate their sisters and mothers. By doing this, they will grow up respecting the women in their lives and these include the women they will marry.

Our daughters must also be brought up to appreciate themselves as women and that they are equal partners in any relationship. By working together as men and women we can then bring to an end violence against women.

Read on as we look at why violence must end, achievements and challenges that women face and why the world must be a levelled platform for both sexes to achieve equality peace and development.

Case Review.....
By Kwamboka Oyaro
His immaculate suit, matching shirt and tie do not give away his pastime. It is no secret that he beats his wife, who often goes to work with a black eye or limps, depending on the kind of beating she received the previous night. He is a rich, powerful man who believes battering his wife enhances his control of the household. Doesn’t he feel anything bad about beating an adult?
After a long silence, he says: "I feel nothing. I’m just doing what I saw my father do and it is what my grandfather did... Women have to be beaten, otherwise they grow horns."
Such a habit, from an educated and prominent man in the 21st Century when media and human rights activists have brought the barbarity of violence against women to the fore, is not understandable.
Will his three sons also beat their wives? "Of course they will. It is the only way to ensure they are at the helm of their family," he says, somehow irritated that I have asked him a question with an obvious answer.
With such men resolutely determined to pass down a primitive culture through generations, can women escape this web of suffering?
Regional co-ordinator of Men for Gender Now, Ken Otina, has walked down the violence path. He beat his girlfriends at the slightest provocation. "If you didn’t beat her up, you became the odd one out. My peers and I believed it was our duty to ‘teach’ our girlfriends a lesson once in a while," says Otina, 34, who is now actively taking the anti-violence message to men.
Before he stopped battering women nearly 10 years ago, Otina didn’t see anything wrong with his actions.
"Generally, we grow up knowing that the person inflicting the pain (usually the father) is the powerful one in the family. We carry the knowledge that to show your power, you must batter your girlfriend or wife and make everyone cry. That is power. That earns you respect." This attitude is embedded in other cultures. Otina and his colleagues treated women like trash.
"To us, women weren’t valuable. In fact, when my then girlfriend conceived, I told her that unless she got a son, she had no business looking for me after giving birth."
The girlfriend got a daughter. Somehow, Otina visited the child, and the visit was his turning point.
"I looked at the newborn. She was so soft and innocent.
I asked myself: "If I, the child’s father, rejects her, how will the world receive her?" I named my daughter after my only sister and married my girlfriend. We now have another daughter and a son."
In his campaign against violence, Otina has discovered many perpetrators do not know that what they do is wrong. No one told them that hitting a woman is wrong and since violence against women is inculcated from childhood, explains Otina, boys learn that that is the way of life.
This attitude, just like an inheritance, informs their future lives and the decisions they make regarding women.
Mary Kamau, a guidance and counselling teacher, says most children who violate others do so because they witnessed it at home.
"Children copy what adults do. Normally, they admire their fathers and what he does is always held in awe — even beating up their mother," explains Mrs Kamau.
Domestic violence studies show that children raised in abusive homes learn that violence can be used to resolve conflicts and problems. And boys who witness their mothers being battered are more likely to batter their female partners later in life than those raised in homes without violence.
But there is hope, assures Otina. "When I talk to men about the side effects of violence, they stop their arguments for wife battering and listen. Many are shocked at the effects. Once they start listening, we are on the right path to stumping out girlfriend and wife battering."
Apart from sharing his knowledge about the ignominy of violence against women, Otina is motivated by his daughters.
"The happiness of my daughter depends on changed men, men who honour and respect women," he says.
If all men thought this way, the cycle of violence would be broken sooner than later.
Kwamboka Oyaro is Editor, Sunday Magazine

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