Working with religious communities to end gender-based violence
Around the world, we see an increase in conservatism, leading societies away from human rights, towards more dogmatic beliefs. Women are disproportionately affected by this shift, with limitations to their rights, the reinforcement of the male hierarchy and the marginalisation of sexual and gender diversity. At the same time, the influence of religious leaders in their communities, means they can play key roles in tackling gender-based violence (GBV). Discover how our Prevention+ programme successfully works with these leaders in Indonesia, Lebanon and Uganda.
As the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, Muslim clerics play an important role in all aspects of life in Indonesia. They influence the masses through teachings and act as role models. The religious leaders and marriage counsellors of the Office of Religious Affairs, are influential in the field of family guidance, and marriage and couple reconciliation. This makes them key players in the fight against GBV. Prevention+ and partner organisations, Rahima and Rifka Annisa, strengthen and build upon their important role in communities by giving trainings to clerics on incorporating gender equal perspectives into their marriage counselling to couples.
Lebanon continues to grapple with economic, political, and social instability, and the Syrian crisis has exacerbated tensions between host and refugee communities. Consequently, women and girls are more exposed to various forms of exploitation, domestic violence, and harmful practices. As the influence of religious men and institutions in Lebanon grows, Prevention+ partner ABAAD is working to engage religious leaders to advance and protect women’s rights. Capitalizing on religious leaders’ influential roles in norms and standards setting - particularly in shaping social norms and behaviours - is a key approach in the effort to end violence against women and girls.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the cultural practices that promotes gender-based violence (GBV) in Eastern Uganda. A belief in FGM is a strong part of cultural identity in this region with cultural ceremonies requiring the attendance of circumcised men and women as guests of honour. As a result, the circumcision of women is widely supported in the community. Faith leaders are key players in influencing cultural beliefs and values and the Prevention+ programme targets them as key allies and champions of GBV prevention. This has led to the almost full eradication of FGM in the area.
Creating a more gender equal and safer world
How do we prevent violence against women? From our extensive research and expertise in the field, we know part of the answer is to address the root causes of violence. For us, that means using a gender-transformative approach in our work: eliminating harmful gender norms to create a more gender equal and safer world. One proven strategy to achieve that, is by engaging men and boys. Our Prevention+ programme, which works with partners across five countries and regions, is doing just that. Below you can find five cases from Indonesia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Lebanon and Uganda, that illustrate the success of engaging men and boys.
Rutgers WPF Indonesia prevents gender-based violence (GBV) and re-defines negative cultural and social norms on masculinity using positive messages. The work includes promoting the equal sharing of roles and parenting in the domestic environment and providing men with counselling services on domestic violence in order to change their behaviour. On the institutional level, Rutgers WFP Indonesia gives trainings to the national police and works on improving referral systems for local police handling GBV cases.
Engaging men and boys is considered a priority in all Rutgers Pakistan initiatives. Strategies include capacity building for stakeholders (such as trainings for government institutions, community members and youth), youth empowerment initiatives, participation in alliances and advocacy activities. A fatherhood campaign was conducted across Pakistan to encourage the transformation of negative gender norms to prevent GBV and to promote the rights of all women and girls.
The Prevention+ programme in Pakistan ended in 2018.
The Mencare+ programme, the precurser of Prevention+, in Rwanda reveals 40% less violence in men against their partners. The programme in Rwanda (known as Bandebereho, meaning ‘role model’ in Kinyarwanda) built the skills needed to have stronger, more equal and non-violent relationships among couples. Focusing on power and gender roles, the programme transformed ideas and norms about who does what and who has power in the household, as well as in intimate relations. The RWAMREC, a local Rwanda non-governmental organisation, implemented the intervention as part of MenCare+, a four-country initiative to engage men in sexual, reproductive, and maternal health.
Middle East and North Africa
Religious leaders in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, are highly influential figures. They directly and indirectly affect laws, policies, and social norms. ABAAD has been pioneering the field of engaging men and boys in MENA since 2011. This case study is based on a project that was led between 2012 and 2015 and focused on engaging with religious leaders in Lebanon on preventing VAW and developing a shared vision for gender equality.
Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) is one of the leading NGOs in Uganda that advocates for access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services for men and women. The organisation has strong male engagement strategies, including involving fathers through positive parenting interventions and encouraging men to support women’s economic empowerment. Other strategies include community mobilisation and advocacy to promote gender equality and challenging negative traditional norms, as well as harmful cultural beliefs and practices.