A Force for Good: Engaging Men to Prevent Violence in Tanzania

“The preponderance of gender-based violence is staggering; globally, one in three women will be affected by it in her lifetime. It exists in every culture, class, and country—note one of us is immune.” —Mira Sorvino, Academy Award-winning actress, mother, activist

Today, as we recognize the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we want to reflect on the progress that we are making toward ending violence for good.

Meet Enock Henjewele from Tanzania, a champion in his own right whose fierce determination is helping his family and community live free of violence. Enock, married with five children, lives in Iringa, a district of Tanzania. As in many parts of the world, gender-based violence is a daily reality for many women in Tanzania—almost half of women under 50 say they have been physically or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

“My marriage was not always as it is now,” says Enock. Like many in his community, Enock was brought up believing that men are the ones in charge and that men’s use of violence against women was a necessary means of maintaining that male dominance. Enock never questioned his use of violence or the social messages surrounding masculinity—for Enock, violence was simply what was to be expected between husband and wife.

Eventually, Enock joined a Community Action Team (CAT), a volunteer-based group established to help address gender-based violence and reduce social acceptance of gender-based violence in the community. Like other members, Enock participated in trainings based on EngenderHealth’s MAP® (Men as Partners) and Couple Connect approaches and learned to challenge harmful gender norms that lead to violence. The volunteers are trained to host community learning sessions and are encouraged to speak out about gender-based violence and gender inequities in their communities.

As a member of the volunteer team, Enock has reflected on how some traditional ideas about gender can lead to unhealthy relationships, place men’s and women’s health at risk, and perpetuate a cycle of violence. Enock has participated in discussions about inequalities between women and men; the inextricable links between harmful gender norms and poor health outcomes; and how power imbalances in intimate relationships can lead to unhappy and unhealthy relationships and families.

Now he is the chairperson of his volunteer team. He recalls one recent dispute between a couple referred to his team. “I invited them for learning sessions using MAP and Couple Connect approaches to reconnect them. I talked with them about the benefits of being equal, loving each other, the effect of harmful gender norms and GBV, sharing their losses and gains,” said Enock.

EngenderHealth continues to work with thousands of Tanzanian men and women to help change the way in which communities think about gender. Truly impactful efforts must engage men alongside women to take a stand against violence in their families and communities.

To learn more about EngenderHealth’s work engaging men as partners, please visit here.

About Mira Sorvino: Academy Award–winning actress Mira Sorvino has been partnering with EngenderHealth to raise awareness about the need to expand access to family planning and quality maternal health care for women everywhere. Learn more about Mira’s work with EngenderHealth here.

About EngenderHealth’s Tanzania Program: EngenderHealth implements the RESPOND Tanzania Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners with Jhpiego and Pact to contribute to improved health status for all Tanzanians through a sustained reduction in new HIV infections in Tanzania, with a focus on key and vulnerable populations. Both efforts are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. EngenderHealth also implements projects supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and other development partners. The recent CHAMPION Project was an innovative six-year initiative to increase men’s positive involvement in preventing the spread of HIV in Tanzania. EngenderHealth has worked in Tanzania since 1982. Learn more here.

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  The day kicks off 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that runs until December 10, which is also Human Rights Day.