Don't cheat on your partner.
Don't abuse your partner.
Don't drink excessively.
These are some of the underlying messages communicated through Brothers for Life, a different kind of "lifestyle" marketing campaign running in Zambia. The campaign, using mass media and featuring prominent Zambians and international athletes, is taking a new approach to tackle an old problem by showcasing men in positive roles. In doing so, Brothers for Life is promoting the prevention of HIV, gender-based violence and alcohol abuse, and encouraging boys and men across the country to do the right thing -- not just for themselves, but also for the women in their lives, their families and communities.
The safety of my wife and daughter is of course important to me. But living in New York City in 2013, protecting them from HIV or violence are not necessarily top of mind in my list of "manly" responsibilities as they might be if I lived in a different time or place.
Since becoming a father last summer, that list of responsibilities has had a delightfully curious and cuddly little girl firmly rooted at the top. I went from Chief Overnight Diaper-Changer in those first few weeks, to Senior Diffuser-Of-Tension-Resulting-From-Compounded-Sleep-Deprivation during the first couple months, to General Manager Of All Things Between 5 am And 7 am over the past couple weeks -- which usually includes playtime, a diaper change, breakfast-making and -eating, and my favorite new tradition, taking a father-daughter stroll around the neighborhood.
While a morning walk at 6 am would not have been my ideal activity a few years ago, I've come to cherish this time I get to spend with my daughter. It's thrilling to be a part of her journey each morning, to see her glee when we step out of the building, her ongoing obsession with pigeons, her occasional mimicking of my running commentary on everything we pass by. Even though she doesn't understand my words and doesn't speak words I understand, we have no trouble communicating.
Every now and then, I'll encounter another dad with his daughter or son, a fellow General Manager Of All Things Between 5 am And 7 am, and I'm elated by the reminder that I'm not alone in this club. That reminder helps me keep doing the right thing every morning: to spend this quality time with my daughter.
Back in Zambia, Brothers for Life is helping boys and men across the country make better choices. Early results have shown measurable decreases in excessive alcohol consumption (by 10 percent), multiple concurrent sexual relationships (by 50 percent) and gender-based violence (by 50 percent). These are stunningly positive results, and UNICEF is now working with the National AIDS Council and a number of local and international partners to scale up the campaign as part of nationwide efforts to prevent HIV.
From Zambia to New York, more and more men are doing the right thing, learning from their peers and working with women in their communities to build a safer, healthier society. I bow to those men and women, including the team that had the foresight to develop Brothers for Life -- they are helping create the kind of world that I want my daughter to grow up in.