From home to the workplace and the operations we support: gender-based violence is everywhere.

From the 25th November to the 10th December, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign was a real learning journey for me. I particularly appreciated the learning event organized by UNWomen and WFP on “Understanding masculinities and violence against women and girls” (Rome, 8-9 December 2016). Participants came from WFP, FAO, IFAD, EU and IDLO. Let me share with you briefly what was an eye-opener from the training.

Circles of influence and multi-layers of interventions
We played a game that allowed all the participants to surround a couple that was experiencing some forms of violence. Participants played the role of friends, families, peers, local actors such as pastors and police, judges, government entities, but also donors, global and international actors, as well as powerful and influential nations/countries. From home to the local and global spheres, each level qualified the situation as: a minor issue, not my business, not part of the agenda or the priorities, etc.
All the circles of influence in this “ecological model”, and the multi-layers of intervention, left the couple in their vulnerability. From the centre to the periphery, the system was perpetuating the circle. Changes only occur according to our level of activism. It is a matter of taking action. The trainer insisted that our current form of activism, such as wearing orange as a colour or a ribbon, is not enough.

A wheel of privileges
This wheel of privileges is used to explain series of decisions and actions that lead to some forms of violence, be it physical, emotional, sexual or economic. The violence can be intentional or non-intentional, but the more a person tends to be in the centre the more “he” will have privilege and entitlements that perpetuate gender-based violence. On the other hand, the more he stands at the centre, the more he has power to bring change - and be the change.

The “do no harm” principle
As we strive to support women’s empowerment through financial or non-financial services, we need to develop a good understanding of her “ecosystem” to get the intended results. For instance, providing “food/cash for work” programmes to women will put them in a vulnerable position if they live in a context of gender-based violence. The intention to empower women will result in a “disempowering” and harmful model where they will experience pressure from male members of their families. Parameters need to be taken into consideration to ensure the “do no harm”.

In sum, breaking the cycle and eradicating factors that perpetuate gender-based violence is an act for each of us, male and female, at all levels using both top-down or bottom-up approaches. In WFP, there is now a momentum where men take charge of the changes to end gender-based violence and inequalities. The movement “WFP Men Stand for Gender Equality” is growing in number and outreach.

At a TED talk in Euston, the Nigerian speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told us why we should all be feminists. You can watch her 30 minutes talk through this link

Read more about how IFAD participated in the 16 days campaign this year