The country is one of the poorest in the world, despite being ranked as one of the world’s top ten countries that are rich in minerals. It also holds one of the highest records of violence against women and girls, in the West African sub-region. The ten years of rebel war officially accounts for nearly 600,000 women and girls violated during this senseless destructive civil conflict that ended in 2002. Despite the end of the war, its effects have contributed largely to the escalation of violence and abuse against women.
Men’s Association for Gender Equality-Sierrra Leone (MAGE-SL) is a non-profit and a network of male-led organisations working towards the promotion of gender equality through advocacy, dialogue and raising awareness on gender policies, women’s rights and empowerment in Sierra Leone.
What do they do
The Association strives to circumvent the traditional academic approach to gender promotion and advocacy by adopting a bottom-up approach with grassroots oriented strategies from within the family settings of Sierra Leone. The ten years rebel war, which officially ended in 2002, contributed towards the escalation of violence and abuse against women. Rape in particular was systematically used in the war by all warring factions. Until 2004 rape was a legal crime in Sierra Leone. Traditionally, women in many parts of Sierra Leone are considered inferior to men. Social structures in these communities such as the legal system of the local community, including family and friends, the educational system, mass media, religion and culture have contributed in many ways to the violent behaviour of men against women.
The purpose of the activities is mainly:
- To improve the status of women and girls
- To address issues of gender inequality and reverse the dismal situation that most females in the country find themselves in
- To circumvent the traditional academic approach to gender promotion and advocacy by adopting a bottom-top approach with grassroots oriented strategies from within the family settings of Sierra Leone
Some of the activities are:
- Community stakeholders engagement forums on men’s issues
- Popularizing the three National Gender Acts of 2007
- Radio discussion programs on gender equality
- Community drama performances on gender in relation to HIV and AIDS
- One on one discussions on gender-based violence
- Intergenerational dialogues at community level on social norms and how it amplifies violence against women and girls
- Public Rallies
- School outreach programme
- Debates and symposiums
- Training and capacity building for rural based men
- Training of men and boys on gender equality and the prevention of gender-based violence
- Policy Advocacy Campaign on GBV laws and gender equality
- Training of Trainers of Civil Society Groups on social norms and mobilization on gender and GBV laws
Target group for activities are:
- A wide range of stakeholders which includes but is not limited to policy makers and central government representatives
- Women and girls
- Men and boys
- Community or opinion leaders/duty bearers
- Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)
- Faith Based Organisations (FBOs)
As a result we have seen:
- A gradual increase in involving women in free and fair decision-making processes
- Promotion of women’s ownership and literacy rights
- Speedy but accurate trials of gender related cases in courts
- Improved status of women in the society
- Reversal of the dismal situation that women face in communities, especially in rural settings where policing and law enforcement remain a huge challenge
MenEngage Sierra Leone reflects on its work
In addressing the issues surrounding sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) across the world, there has been little focus on the important roles men and boys play in ending this century’s old menace. Research and other programmes that involve men and boys tend to be largely focused on men and boys as perpetrators of violence and abusers of women and girls in societies, recognising them for the damages they cause through harmful behaviours and a lack of engagement in trying to attain gender equality. Few have focused on the positive roles that some men and boys play with families and societies and few have sought to enhance these positive roles that some men play.
Furthermore, few studies have examined, for example, fatherhood experiences in post-conflict settings, such as Sierra Leone, where many men and boys face significant mental and social problems as a result of war and other post-conflict stressors, though this is not any justification for SGBV. This gap in knowledge and approach to ending SGBV is problematic because it impedes development of effective and culturally relevant interventions that may promote family well-being and social cohesions at societal level.
This is the void that MenEngage Sierra Leone network seeks to fill. The network, which is made up of women-led, human rights advocacy, gender equality, women’s empowerment, youth-led and media organisations, amongst others, has had the opportunity to learn and share among its network members and beyond the various expertise necessary for working with policy-makers, duty-bearers, security sectors, service providers, religious leaders, local community command structures and educational institutions to name but a few, in relaying the messages of the need to engage men and boys in transformative masculinities.