Australia Awards Alumni, Amanda Odoi from Ghana and Itumeleng Komanyane from Botswana, are tackling gender-based violence from a different perspective – they believe that men need to be fully engaged and involved to end violence against women and girls.
Amanda, who has been working on issues of gender equality and gender-based violence for eight years, developed an interest in masculinities studies following her 2012 Australia Awards Fellowship on Building the Capacity of African Women Leaders: Gender Inclusive Development at Flinders University.
“During this period, we were introduced to a lot of literature and statistics on gender-based violence and how it is being addressed. We were further introduced to the White Ribbon Group and how they are helping with advocacy against gender violence and how to engage men in advocacy on gender-based violence . This drew my attention to the fact that in all this work I have been doing, I had never considered the fact that men must be a focus,” says Amanda. Her work at the University of Cape Coast’s Centre for Gender Research, Advocacy and Documentation (CEGRAD) now revolves around the social and cultural practices that can lead to violent practices among men in Ghana.
In addition to research, Amanda is directly involved in handling diverse issues of concern to women at the University of Cape Coast and the surrounding communities, especially in the area of advocacy on gender violence. Amanda says gender advocacy is challenging work due to long-held attitudes about gender roles and the need to go against the status quo, but she is already seeing positive results. “Students and other recipients of our advocacy programs have come out to state the impact of the awareness on their lives. I assisted a student to leave an abusive situation she had been enduring for over 10 years. I hope to make a greater impact at CEGRAD and with the people I work with.”
Further south, Itumeleng is working with the MenEngage Global Alliance to build a mass movement of male activists who support and advocate for women’s rights in their communities. “We are not about men’s rights, we are about creating a world where men and women can live together and work together to build a better Africa,” says Itumeleng.
Itumeleng’s personal aim is to change the narrative of the African man, which is often portrayed in the media as violent, aggressive and absent. “I have been very humbled by the men I have been able to meet in over 20 countries across Africa who are not often talked about – men who are working together with strong African women.”
Itumeleng, who participated in the Transitional Justice and Gender Justice Fellowship at the University of Sydney in 2015, says the impact of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is very significant, yet the work of activists is never done. “During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, we get to see more awareness, more campaigns and activities, but the work still continues for activists, even after the 16 days, trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”
More: Itumeleng Komanyane started her advocacy work in 1993 at the age of 13.
Watch her advocacy timeline here: