Mainstreaming men and boys engagement in GBV programming in East Africa
The Coexist Initiative works in the areas of sexual and gender – based violence (SGBV) and HIV prevention in Kenya. Our main focus groups are men, boys and communities although our programs are also cross-cutting. We employ innovative, tested and integrated approaches that are simple, home-grown, participatory, holistic, and ones that reinforce existing work. Our thematic interventions are guided by research, training, synergy development, advocacy, tools development and extensive grassroots engagement. Our key revolve is to build competences, raise the levels of awareness, influence attitude/behavior change and objectively provide information. Our SGBV programming specifically focuses on addressing attitudes that generate traditions of terror and encourage the use of violence as enshrined in patriarchy, negative masculinity and the entire negative socialization processes. We reverse the trend by targeting the men and boys and working with them to change negative attitudes, practices and beliefs that put women and girls at even greater risk and vulnerability including HIV infection. We have learned over the years that brutal expressions of masculinity by men and boys remain widespread in Kenya, yet the inclusion of men and boys has not been mainstreamed in programming. The Coexist Initiative is therefore premised on the fact that GBV and other offshoots including HIV is a manifestation of unequal relations between women and men with roots deeply entrenched in social, economic and political informal conventions based on perceived men and boys “privilege” at the expense of girls and women’s vulnerability. Our work is deeply anchored on the fact that men and boys remain the main perpetrators of violence against women and girls; therefore the fundamental role of men and boys in fostering gender parity cannot be over emphasized yet largely ignored.
Key gaps in GBV programming in East Africa
Most East Africa countries have developed adequate legislation for addressing gender based violence. However, the full enforcement of the legislation is hindered by the lack of specific policies addressing GBV, and insufficient institutional development in the field of combating GBV at the grassroots
The regional pattern for interventions for GBV eradication is defined by a combination of actions taken by key women’s civil society organizations and slowly increasing involvement of the governmental social services. The involvement of men, boys and communities in the process is literally absent
Collaboration and harmonization between various GBV eradication stakeholders is not common practice in the region. Thus, an important prerequisite for the development of holistic and multidisciplinary models and guidelines for eradicating the vice at the community level is lacking. This continues to cause momentum loss in the work against GBV in the region
Lack of data and reliable records about GBV at community level significantly hinders advancements in work to combat the vice. While progress can be noted in respect of collecting data at the level of various institutions, the region has not established an integrated system of disaggregated data collection on GBV. Furthermore, many institutions do not have a practice of collecting and publicizing data. • Organizations working to eradicate GBV largely evaluate the efforts currently in place as unable to meet the needs of communities, inadequately funded and often scarce primarily at the grassroots. Regional, national and grassroots networking of women and men groups towards FGM eradication is still not a wide spread practice in the country.