Wang-oo Forum, a men and boys oriented NGO has organized her maiden #MaleEngagement on Sunday, March 18th, 2018 at St. Peters, Church of Uganda, Naguru to dialogue with men for better understanding of masculinities and violence against women (VAWG) in Uganda. The successful engagement themed “Positive Masculinities to Unlearn, Disrupt and end Violence Against Women and Girls in Uganda” was aimed to raise awareness about the staggering and grim statistics of VAWG in Uganda and the significance of men and boy’s involvement as one of the promising and best strategies to end VAWG.
Despite the role of men mainly as the principal perpetrators of the various forms of VAWG worldwide and in Uganda, there are only a few (if any) organizations that have engaged or are engaging males to end VAWG and subsequently advance gender justice, human right and social justice. Thus, most of the organizations have long focused solely on women engagement and related activities/ interventions to end VAWG. Consequently, there is incessant and entrenched VAWG in Uganda which requires timely, targeted and comprehensive male engagement.
About the Maiden Male Engagement
The male engagement brought together over 20 participants comprising mainly men and only one woman from the St. Peter’s Church of Uganda, Naguru, Suburb of Kampala. The engagement was on understanding masculinities and violence against women and girls in Uganda with a special focus on transformative masculinities, working with men and boys uphold positive masculinities to end VAWG and the role of Wang-oo Forum as an organization spearheading male engagement to end VAWG in Uganda. There were also video showing (on VAWG) interactive sessions, testimonies on the experience of VAWG and contributions to move forward from Wang-oo’s maiden male engagement.
The Role of Wang-oo Forum in Ending VAWG in Uganda
The Co-founder of Wang-oo, Francis Ogweng (ASP), who also doubles as the UNWomen HeforShe Ambassador and Champion, staff at the Family and Child Protection Unit, Uganda Police and student of the School of Women & Gender Studies, Makerere University, Uganda presented staggering figures on VAWG in Uganda and why Wang-oo was established.
In his presentation, Mr. Ogweng shared his experience as a Family and Child Protection Officer and HeforShe Ambassador and outlined the worrying trends of VAWG in Uganda especially among partners and young girls.
“Uganda has experienced and still recording a higher number of VAWG. And it’s important to mention that these acts are usually perpetrated and maintained by men against women of all class and girls. Can you believe that death by domestic violence among women in Uganda as of 2013 was at 2, 318 and even fathers are defiling their children and infecting them with HIV? he quizzed and pointed to the statistics on his presentation.
On what provided the impetus for the establishment of Wang-oo Forum, Mr. Ogweng gave a brief history of Wang-oo as a fireside gathering for relevant tales telling which he and many of the people who hail from the Langi and Acholi region, Uganda observed and/ or participated while growing up. Most importantly, he reiterated Wang-oo has been the place where “men and women are made”, hence, it’s the appropriate avenue and strategy to deconstruct such ideologies.
“Wang-oo has been the foundation for the construction of masculinities and femininities. You see this is where patriarchy is enforced- boys and girls learn don’ts and do’s and real men and women are also made. This is what causes gender inequality and maintains VAWG in our societies, he indicated
In his conclusion, the UNWomen HeforShe Ambassador added that as Wang-oo forum, we have a responsibility and are committed to breeding the new generation of boys and men in Uganda who will have a peaceful home and nation with gender equality and justice for all as their daily agenda. So, we [Wang-oo] are interested in creating a critical mass of role model men, mentors, champions and ambassadors to end VAWG.
Transformative Masculinities to Unlearn, Disrupt and End VAWG in Uganda
This session of the engagement was handled by Mr. Emmanuel Kodwo Mensah, Co-founder (Wang-oo) and Masters of Arts Gender Studies graduate from the School of Women & Gender Studies, Makerere University. Using an all-inclusive and participatory approach, Mr. Mensah engaged the participants to discuss the need to understand masculinities and VAWG and how men and boys can contribute positively to end VAWG through transformative masculinities.
To strengthen the earlier presentation on the construction of men and women, Mr. Mensah expounded on masculinities, patriarchal masculinities and how these ideologies maintain inequalities and contribute to the VAWG in our societies. He said
“while masculinities are the socially accepted behaviors, roles, and attributes associated with maleness and considered appropriate for men, patriarchal masculinities reflect those ideas and practices of masculinities the reinforces the supremacy of masculinities over femininity, in other words, the power of men over women. As we all know, these are evident in our societies and they maintain gender inequalities”
On why Wang-oo Forum sees it imperative to engage men, Mr. Kodwo Mensahshared empirical (statistics) and real-life evidence on how men have for years through the belief in masculine superiority which underscores patriarchy and consequent access to and control over resources have maintained and violate[d] the rights of women. He added further that
“We need to engage men and boys because we [men] are usually the main perpetrators of VAWG, but also we cannot solve this riddle [VAWG] without ourselves [men]. This is why it is important to inculcate and promote positive/transformative masculinities [emphasizing the values of equality, respect, and dignity for everyone especially women and girls] in our homes, workplaces and wherever we find ourselves.
Moving forward, these are things men and boys can do to help achieve the elimination of VAWG worldwide and in our context, Uganda”, he added. “The elimination of VAWG requires comprehensive approaches, however, I believe if we [men] reflect on and consider our attitudes and behavior towards women and girls, men support to raise our boy child with the values and practices of positive/ transformative masculinities, encourage our fellow men about VAWG and its implications, then as a community we involve in such campaigns and help the enforcement of VAWG laws by reporting VAWG-related cases, we shall surely have a peaceful home and nation”
Interactive Session, Participants Contribution & Testimonies
The only female participant in her contribution and response to a question asked by the last presenter “How will you (as a man) feel when you find/ see another man abusing your sister, daughter and/ mother?“, she sighed and said
“Thanks for this engagement, I must say you have reminded me of how I felt when a young man, then a boyfriend of my daughter burn her face with a pressing iron because I had called her and he [boyfreind] suspected she was talking to another man”. I could not hold myself and … but I believe this strategy will go a long way to help us sensitize the men and deal with VAWG in Uganda“
Another male participant added ” I grew up in the Acholi sub-region and seeing Francis talk about Wang-oo reminds me of the good tales our (grand) fathers told us. It is good to see how you are promoting this idea and in a way that will let men reconsider how they treat women. To make this work better in Uganda, I am suggesting you take this campaign to the villages because that is where you find that this VAWG is very prominent but people do not talk about them”.
In another contribution particularly on the way forward, another male participant agreed with Mr. Kodwo Mensah and emphasized the need for parents to raise their boys in a way that will let them stay away from abusing women and added that government must intervene. “I agree with you on raising our boy to conform with the transformative masculinities, but I think the government should develop a new curriculum that will help teachers teach and raise the children in the appropriate manner [transformative masculinities]. When the government does these, we shall surely end the VAWG in Uganda“.
The engagement ended successfully with resolutions from the participants and their commitment to support Wang-oo Forum achieve its goal of raising a new generation that will reflect positive masculinities and help end VAWG in Uganda.