When Joseph (name changed) was forced to watch his wife being raped during the conflict in Sierra Leone in the nineties, he decided to take revenge, join the war and kill the enemy. But he didn’t. Instead, through a program sponsored by UNHCR, David got involved in helping to find a girl who had been abducted from a refugee camp. He also was asked to engage men in preventing violence against women. His leadership role and experiences working with men in the camp changed his view of violence completely. He went from “revenge to prevention.”
This is not the only program where men are confronting and actively questioning deeply entrenched views about using violence and being “a real man.” From Brazil, to South Africa, to India, slogans and campaigns like One Man Can, My Strength is Not for Hurting, and Quality Men Don’t Fear Gender Equality, are increasingly in the public eye. North America is experiencing a similar phenomenon with the White Ribbon Campaign, a loosely knit organization of men who are engaged in ending violence against women and promoting gender equality. The White Ribbon Campaign has sprouted active branches all over the world that focus on ending violence against women—led and run by men. Quality men.
Quality men understand that they don’t have to use violence as a tool to dominate others. Quality men are the traditional leaders who recognize the cost of harmful traditional practices to their communities and act to end them. They are military commanders who recognize that including women in their peace and security operations results in enhanced force protection and improved information gathering capabilities. Quality men are politicians who understand that cultivating women candidates is not just a political tactic to capture more votes, but that actively recruiting and supporting women in politics broadens the spectrum of voices and policy choices for everyone. We need to engage quality men at every level—from unemployed young men, to fathers, to high-level decision-makers—because gender equality is in everyone’s interests.