Men Must Be Included in the Conversation

Photo: UN Women/Putra Djohan

Photo: UN Women/Putra Djohan

With the recent flood of sexual harassment allegations and dismissals that have been circulating the news, high-profile public figures have been facing real repercussions such as lost jobs and lawsuits. Executive Director of UN Women Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka believes that, while women will continue to face challenges in the fight for ending sexual misconduct, more and more victims are being supported to come out and seek help is a huge step in the right direction. 
However, the fact of the matter is that an estimated 35% of women all over the world have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner. Mlambo-Ngcuka believes that the only way to end this violence is to include men in the conversation. “Most of our work on fighting against violence or other ills has been dedicated to what women can do to fight for themselves, to protect themselves,” she said. In order to institute real change, society must address not only the symptoms, but the causes of violence against women. 

It is time to engage men to promote equality and work towards ending sexual misconduct. We must change social norms that threaten women and makes them hide their shame from being abused (in some cases decades ago). We must stand with the women who are finding their voice and summoning their courage to expose powerful men who prey on the less powerful. This means being there for all those affected by gender-based violence and leaving no one behind. It also means paying attention to the least visible victims and survivors of sexual violence: the missing adolescent trafficked as a sex slave, the little girl who move tents in an IDP camp after being married to an older man, beaten by her partner behind closed doors, and the working woman harassed and humiliated by bosses and colleagues. 

This year's theme of the 16 Days of Activism at the United Nations, is Leaving No one Behind. “When we talk about leaving no one behind, we want to identify these different forms of violence that women and girls experience," says Mlambo-Ngcuka. "This violence takes place hidden, but in plain sight, normalized so it is hardly noticeable. It just becomes part of life.”  

Mikki Brammer