This is a personal story of how a Tearfund Nigeria team member, who took part in a recent Transforming Masculinities training course in Jos, Nigeria, changed his outlook in just five days. The course was run by Tearfund’s Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) team. There were 25 participants from around Nigeria made up of Tearfund and partner staff, and ‘Mother Buddies’ who are working on HIV prevention and reducing maternal and infant mortality.
One in every three women and girls will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. If you are like me, those were just mere words. One month ago I just didn’t care!
Today, those exact same words stir something deep inside of me. Now, when I hear the stories or the statistics of victims, I imagine the girls; I hear their voices; I can picture their faces and feel their pain.
Suddenly, I’m aware that while the rest of us are busy being ‘men’, more than 1 billion women and girls in our world will be abused, raped or denied their rights to be human simply because they were born as women. Millions of girls and women are experiencing pain, or will experience pain, because of norms and behaviour that we as men take for granted and because socially and culturally these behaviours are accepted.
One month ago I didn’t know these things. Within a week, three passionate and amazing colleagues from London's Tearfund office in Teddington led me and 25 others through a process of self-awareness, self-examination, self-appraisal and empowerment.
Through carefully and skilfully facilitated sessions, we ‘saw’ the evil of SGBV in the human stories we heard. We learnt how, due to cultural norms and values, gender-based violence deprives women and girls of a life of dignity.
‘As a husband and father of three daughters I have to be a positive role model by the way I treat their mother.’
Today, I am on a journey to take action. I have resolved to be a gender champion in my home. As a husband and father of three daughters I understand the responsibility I have to be a positive role model to my daughters by the way I treat their mother.
I have been so impacted by this SGBV training that I just can't help sharing what I have learnt. Next week I will be speaking to members of my church. As I reflect on what I want to say, I hear the Holy Spirit telling me to say: 'All men and women are created equal and endowed with talents and abilities. All men and women are valued in the sight of God. Let’s not allow culture to distort God’s original plan.'
Read more about Transforming Masculinities, an evidence-based approach to transforming harmful concepts of gender and masculinities, and to promoting gender equality.
Ben Chikan is a Tearfund project officer in Nigeria.