Not by Choice (Call to noble duty)

6 Apr



By Wanjala Wafula

A story in a daily newspaper here in Nairobi recently described me as a resilient soul that swims against the tide in eliminating gender based violence. They went further to label me as a revolutionary for the course of others. Never mind that it’s the same newspaper that described me as a timid human rights campaigner for “battered” men eight years ago. It is because of others that I write this piece for the reason that it is the otherness of others that we all are.

Gender Based violence is a grave reality in the lives of many women and girls in Africa. It is a pervasive human rights violation, a public health crisis, and an obstacle to equality, development, security and peace. It’s an aftermath of the destructive gender norms dominated by negative masculinities and manifested in sets of traditions and customs that continue to demean women while destroying men and boys at the same time. I made a conscious decision to dedicate my life to working for the good of others when I realized that male inferred dominance over women has past extractions and its functions and manifestations change over time.

I concur with my detractors that I have devoted myself to championing the rights and freedom of “others” because for me gender based violence has devastating consequences to women and men, our families and the broader community. It increases women’s vulnerability to HIV infection and dents AIDS management efforts. It augments reproductive health problems and negatively affects women and girls general well-being. It decreases their ability to freely participate in their families and communities. Gender based violence hurts children, men and families by creating a culture of fear and mistrust that leads to the lack of intimacy, safety within familial and intimate relationships.

Our commitment as an organization is to work with men and boys as key partners in the fighting against gender/sexual violence, enhance HIV prevention and other human rights violations. We mobilize and get men involved in reproductive health attributes including sexual violence survivor support and male engagement in the prevention of mother transmission of HIV. We develop, share new and effective strategies of engaging men and boys as principle partners in eliminating all forms violence. We work with schools and other institutions of learning for purposes of fostering positive masculinities and relationships. We constructively engage the government and other administrative instruments so as to implement legal, social, political and economic promises made to women and girls.

We continue to pay tribute to groups and individuals who have committed themselves to bringing violence against women to the forefront of national attention and encouraging everyone in their various capacities to take action to end the perennial act. We continuously refuse the portrayal of gender-based violence as a women’s struggle only, where almost the only role available to (all) men is that of perpetrator or policeman. Our endeavor has been and will always be to get men and boys to embrace their rightful role as advocates against violence. The penchant of our work is that there are many men who do not commit acts of violence against women and girls but that men and boys have traditionally been silent and through that silence, have allowed the violence to continue.

It is my assurance that violence against women is conceivably the most appalling human rights violation in our land and that it is everybody’s business to eliminate it. Gender based violence is possibly the most pervasive offense as it knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.

We continue to develop tools and resources all inclined towards making the world safer for all of us. We have our skeptics who remain determined to make our work irrelevant by denying us the resources and visibility that we so much need yet many of you continue to support our work with the little you have.

The writer is a Founder/ Director of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, foster HIV prevention and champion the rights of minority groups  in Kenya. Visit or email facebook-wanjala Wafula- skype:coexist.initiative. Tel: +254-712653322


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