Today, as we recognize the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it is important to shine a light on the tremendous progress we are making toward ending violence for good. No matter where we live, we all have a shared responsibility to stop gender-based violence, and changing the way we think about gender is a necessary first step. Ending violence begins with changing beliefs and attitudes that lead to harmful behavior -- and it begins with us. But the best way to bring to life the progress that is happening around the world is by introducing you to Daniel Kikoma, a pastor from Tanzania, whose determination to help his community live free of violence and HIV has made him a champion in his own right.
Daniel lives in Shinyanga Urban, a district of Tanzania hard hit by HIV and gender-based violence. For women, gender-based violence is a part of everyday life -- approximately 44% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by their partners in their lifetime. As is the case in many countries, in Tanzania HIV and gender-based violence are inextricably linked. After listening to various members of his congregation, Daniel realized that his own long-held traditional views about men being the head of the household and women needing to obey their husbands unquestionably were not conducive to an equitable, peaceful, or healthy environment within their family or their community.
To help his congregants, Pastor Daniel participated in an EngenderHealth-supported intervention called Men As Partners® (MAP) through the CHAMPION Project, which is designed to involve men in preventing the spread of HIV in Tanzania. As part of this program, he learned how harmful traditional ideas about gender roles can lead to unhealthy relationships, place men's and women's health at risk, and perpetuate an endless cycle of violence.
Pastor Daniel attributes the transformation he sees in himself and in the members of his community not only to the improved communication skills he learned from MAP®, but also to an enhanced awareness about the need for men to nurture their partners' health and well-being. Daniel notes, "a healthy household is a household that supports each other." Daniel continues to mobilize men in his community to promote equality in their relationships and urges men to take a stand against gender-based violence.
As he began to work with his congregants, Pastor Daniel found that communication was critical in transforming harmful behavior. Daniel now regularly works with couples in his community to resolve conflict and facilitate ongoing dialogue about sustaining healthy relationships. Daniel sees success in couples who have broken the cycle of violence.
Introducing these concepts to young men and women before a cycle of violence can begin has had a far-reaching effect. As he witnesses young people adopt new ways of communicating and reshaping the way they think about gender, Daniel knows that he is helping to usher in a healthier generation of Tanzanian women and men.
Today, EngenderHealth is working throughout Tanzania with thousands of men and women, including faith-based leaders like Daniel, to help change the way communities think about gender. Like Pastor Daniel, we all have the power to change harmful behavior. We all need to be champions against violence -- and transformation begins from within.