MEN UNiTE ( Men Against Violence and Abuse Alliance)
MEN UNiTE is an alliance for women to feel hopeful about men in Pakistan. It works to support men in developing healthy self-awareness and meaningful personal relationships with women, children and other men that move beyond the limits of masculine stereotypes and social patterns. This alliance is committed to enhancing men's leadership and partnership with others in order to promote models of positive masculinity and individual integrity, while dismantling patterns of personal and societal violence and fostering social equality and men examining contemporary manhood from a variety of perspectives—from boys on the journey to manhood to men overcoming violence.
The Alliance members are hopeful that this alliance will contribute significantly towards women’s liberation and will help create a culture where men will be seen as allies to raise awareness, challenge mindsets and bring about behavior change to create a world where violence against women and girls is unacceptable. MEN UNiTE
MEN UNiTE is movement of men standing with women in the struggle to end violence and abuse. But this alliance is doing more, revealing an emerging male culture where men are reclaiming their tears and their hearts as they join women, transgender and children in creating a world where we are all safe and free.
Engaging with men on challenges and initiatives with the issue of gender justice from the perspective of social justice is very important as it situates working with men and masculinities in the gender justice framework. MEN UNiTe is working for the critical inclusion of men in Public programming (men’s inclusion and accountability to women’s programmers, health programmers, Jirga and rural development, community participation)
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
MEN UNiTE has emerged as the first indigenous Pakhtun Men’s Alliance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where men have started to challenge stereotypical images of masculinity. MEN UNiTE has established 180 Men Support groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where men are working with men to improve the lives of women suffering from gender based violence.
MEN UNiTE also runs a MOVE Program ( Men Overcoming Violence for Equality), which provides a unique opportunity for violent men to examine their own and society’s attitudes and how violence is perpetuated by these attitudes. And empowerment of women is linked to the liberation of men and how it affects their daily life at home and in community programs have started to encourage and mobilize men to be responsible parents and loving partners within the family. Also to act as effective role models for children and instil values in them, contributing to peace and harmony within society. MEN Unite has also initiated a debate for engendered legislation.
The biggest innovation of the campaign is that MEN UNiTE is launched by men themselves in a society where lives are controlled by strict religious believes and tribal values. The Men UNiTE Alliance have started its outreach towards men and works with them to understand the consequences of violence against women, not only on women but also men and on their family life and how it impacts their relation in home and its results in community and on a society as whole.
We are engaging men to understand that men's violence is learned, and can therefore be unlearned. MOVE have started to mobilize and educate men that it is the responsibility of each individual to stop his/her violence and break the silence that harbours this violence.
In a very rigid, militarized and patriarchal society MEN UNiTE Alliance has started to redefine the definition of a “Real Man” and promoted the concept that Pakhtun man who are known as the most violent and gender blind can redefine their masculinity patterns and can play a role in bringing about gender equality. We encourage and enable men to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behavior and their social and family roles. Today there is a large number of men who are working as supportive partners or as agents of social change.
An increasing number of men are taking responsibility for their violence and learning how to stop, learning healthy ways of expressing themselves and alternate ways of expressing strong feelings safely.
The alliance is helping men and boys to learn how to build healthy relationships in family and society and to better understand gender roles and their socialization as men and at the same time learn how to lead violence-free lives.
Challenges are immense. The geographic area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA is a conflict zone. In militarized society with wrong religious interpretations, challenging the definition of a “Real Man” is very risky and life threatening. The atmosphere of this region, is that where children grow up perpetuating gender-based violence and discrimination.
Violent forms of masculinities are reinforced and internalised in boys through media, movies, peers and the overall society. There is a lot of pressure on boys to perform sexually and to be strong and dominant . They learn that masculinity gives entitlement to power therefore culturally acceptable and dominant forms of masculinities are usually associated with violence and decision making. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA boys learn learn from an early age that conflict can be resolved by using physical and psychological violence. Violence does not only affect girls and women – but also puts young males at particular risk.
Some of the biggest lessons learned are: self-awareness is the first step towards a change in behavior. It is critical for men to start reflecting on themselves, to accept their strengths and weaknesses and to identify what is possible to change in their relations with men and women. Men needs a chance too therefore all men must not be criminalized as perpetrators.
Men also share moments when they feel powerless both in their private life and at work. While working with men and boys we have learned that instead of focusing on individual males' acts of violence, it better to focus on the entire culture that creates violence and dominant forms of masculinities. Men and boys also need space and opportunity to discuss their feelings with other males, but opportunities should also be created where both sexes are able to share their concerns and perspectives with each other in a structured and non-confrontational way. Men/boys and women/girls both pay a heavy price of gender stereotyping.