The change starts with you

03 December 2018 | Events

Gerine Hoff - Earlier this week, a public dialogue was held to create awareness against human trafficking. This is part of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, which is themed 'Human Trafficking - How safe are our women and children?' this year.

Shockingly, according to statistics, around 2.5 million people worldwide are the victims of human trafficking every year. You have to ask yourself, how is this possible? Why is it even happening in a so-called modern day and age?

What makes matters worse is that the numbers of reported victims on our own country have also steadily increased – in fact a number of attempted kidnapping of minors have been reported in various parts of Namibia. Add to that, eight victims of human trafficking were reported in Namibia this year, compared to seven in 2015.

Just think of little Avihe Ujaha, who is thought to have been a victim of human trafficking. How is it possible that in spite of a huge amount of money made available for any information about her disappearance, no headway has been made?

But this column is not about doom and gloom, and the fear of being kidnapped. Actually the 16 Days of Activism against GBV invites us to challenge violence against the fairer sex through deeds of activism. It began on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and runs for 16 days until Human Rights Day on 10 December.

This brings me to an article I read on BBC's website about a 32-year old man, Jean Pierre, who lives in Rwanda. He shared how he used to beat his wife, seeing her as someone he married to have children with and to look after them. He said that he had been following in his father's footsteps, saying that if he ever came home and found that something had not been done, he would abuse his wife mentally and physically.

And then one day, through something as simple as learning how to cook and clean, his world changed. As part of a grassroots intervention programme which encourages men to take on domestic roles, including childcare, Jean Pierre said his behaviour was transformed. “They asked us if a man can sweep the house, and we said 'he can'. And then they asked us: 'Who among you does that?' And there was no one.”

After taking part in classes covering everything from cooking and cleaning to discussions on how to challenge traditional roles, Jean Pierre learned how to do tasks that he previously believed his wife should do. He told the BBC: “Then we would go back to training with witnesses who would testify that they had observed changes in us.”

In spite of his friends making fun of him, Jean Pierre persevered when he saw the benefits to his family. He says his children feel closer to him and his wife now runs a business that has allowed them to improve their home.

This project has literally changed – and saved – hundreds of lives. It was originally developed in Latin America by the fatherhood campaign MenCare, which believes equality will only be reached when men take on 50% of the world's childcare and domestic work.

Isn't it time that Namibian men are encouraged to do this same? You never know when something as little as sweeping a floor, can change a life.

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