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Defying the Odds: Lessons learnt from Men for Gender Equality Now
In 2001, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) took the first steps towards creating an African network of male activists against gender-based violence. In a regional consultative meeting which was organized by FEMNET that year, Kenyan men came together to form a local initiative “Men for Gender Equality Now” (MEGEN). This Project was facilitated and supported by FEMNET from 2004 to 2008 when the project became independent.
The Project has worked on training and community mobilization, influencing ordinary Kenyans to challenge unequal power relations between men and women. While looking at gender and power more broadly, the project has focused specifically at preventing and reducing gender-based violence, challenging perceptions that violence is something unchangeable and prescribed by culture and traditions. It has primarily focused on men, encouraging them to transform their relationship with women, and denounce violent behaviour. In order to practically intervene to stop violence, MEGEN has also set up a survivor support program, dubbed “Rapid Response”, through which survivors of gender-based violence are assisted to access justice, treatment and other forms of support.
At the time of developing this booklet, the members of the MEGEN Project has registered an autonomous organization, called MEGEN Kenya, which will spearhead the implementation of the Project in Kenya. Recognizing the many ground-breaking initiatives done through the Project, FEMNET decided to document some of the work over the five years in this booklet, and in a set of digital stories by activists (see: www.megenkenya.org).
The aim of publicly sharing these experiences is to inspire other organizations to learn from our work with men to promote gender equality. Ultimately the aim is to create a more gender-equal and violence-free world – and to contribute to the body of knowledge on how men and women can work together to achieve social and gender justice.
In this publication, MEGEN activists share their personal experiences as individuals and as Changemakers. While writing their stories, the activists were asked to reflect on their own change processes: what sparked their activism around gender and violence? And how has the MEGEN platform been helpful in this process? The publication also includes short briefs on the work of the project, highlighting the challenges, successes and lessons learnt in different program areas. In the process of developing this booklet, many people have been of great help; the dedicated MEGEN activists who shared some of their life experiences in their own writing, the then MEGEN Project Coordinator Kennedy Odhiambo Otina and other FEMNET staff members and MEGEN teams. We are also very grateful to UNIFEM for providing the financial resources that made it possible for us to produce this booklet and the digital stories, and to our other long-standing partners in the MEGEN Project: Heinrich Böll Foundation and CIDA-Gesp. Last but not least, I would like to appreciate Åsa Eriksson who worked tirelessly with the different teams to ensure that the task was successfully completed. We are proud over what has been achieved during the 5 years with the MEGEN Project and we hope that what we learnt can inspire others.
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