Celebrate Solutions: Boys Learning to Take a Stand against Violence in Kenya

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Violence against women is prevalent in Kenya. According to government data from 2008-2009, nearly half of Kenyan who have ever been married have been physically abused by husbands. The same survey showed that over half of women believe that men have the right to beat their wives.

Ujamaa Africa, whose mission is to promote health, personal security and economic empowerment for vulnerable women and children, is trying to change this. The organization is currently running a program called Your Moment of Truth, a project to end violence against girls and women in slums in Nairobi by encouraging adolescent boys to take action.

"Our main focus on the curriculum is positive masculinity for the boys, positive empowerment, and… standing up for the rights of women," Collins Omondi, a trainer within the program, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "If they say the boys are actually the problem, we the boys can actually be part of the solution," he added.

The program uses social learning theory, which draws heavily on the concept of modeling or learning by observing a behavior, to change the behavior the boys’ behavior and encourage them to challenge social norms. This usually involves simple exercises, like walking away from a friend or classmate who is talking badly about a girl. More than 80% of boys initially reported that raping a girl or woman was of if she was wearing a miniskirt. After the training program, Ujamaa says this figure dropped to 30%. The number of girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy has also fallen since the program started.

Omondi cites courage as one of the main lessons of the program. "Many boys say they cannot intervene in a situation where a girl is being harassed because they feel they are not confident enough," he said. "But you can stand up and say: 'No. This man is doing something wrong.' Out of that, many other people will join hands with you."

Researchers from the University of Nairobi, Stanford University, and the United States International University-Africa have deemed the program “highly effective.” According to their study to be published later this year, the trainings have improved the boys’ negative attitudes towards women and increased the likelihood of a successful intervention when witnessing a physical or sexual assault. In fact, the project increased successful interventions from 25% to 74%, an increase of 185%. Boys were also more likely to intervene during verbal harassment and the rates of rape by boyfriends and male friends of girls in the schools where the program was taught declined by 20%.

With funding from the British government, every child enrolled in secondary school in Nairobi, about 130,000 students, will participate in the six-week training program by the end of 2017.

Flickr photo via ViktorDobai

Entry Comments

    • Apr 01
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I think this is a great program. Young boys should be taught the importance of protecting women and respecting their rights. As we know, this is a hard task to accomplish due to the already imposed believes and preconceived notions these children are being raised with. In my opinion, this system will continue to work as long as the older generations of men also take part and acknowledge their flawed outdated ways of thinking.

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