Mary suffered in an abusive and controlling marriage for more than six years. ‘He would come back home drunk at around 10pm, and would immediately attack and insult me in front of the children,’ she remembers.
Mary is one of a staggering number of women affected by sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This country has suffered many years of civil war, with violence against women used as a weapon. Furthermore, this violence has crept into everyday life, permeating life at home and across communities.
Shockingly, USAID estimates that one in every four women in the DRC will experience sexual violence during their lifetime. We believe passionately that this needs to change, and that it can. And we are pioneering an approach to tackling violence against women that brings about inspiring transformation.
Based on our extensive research, we know that cultural and religious interpretations that justify male dominance and violent behaviour are a significant contributor to the problem.
We also know from experience that faith leaders have a unique opportunity to speak out against harmful social norms such as this, due to their positions of influence. Based on this research and knowledge, we devised an approach called Transforming Masculinities.
Transforming Masculinities uses scriptural reflections to promote respectful relationships between men and women. Through it, religious leaders of various faiths are being equipped and mobilised to tackle violence against women among individuals and whole communities.
When Mary’s husband started attending Bible-based Transforming Masculinities sessions at his church, his whole mindset started to change, and his behaviour followed suit.
‘I was so amazed by the way my husband started changing little by little, and acting differently,’ says Mary. ‘Now, my husband speaks to me in a soft voice, we even get to discuss questions in our home. He comes back home at 7pm at the latest, and he is now concerned with the education of the children and, most importantly, not being drunk. I do not know how to thank you enough.’
Over 400 faith and community leaders have been trained in the Transforming Masculinities approach so far, reaching over 2,500 men and women. As with Mary’s husband, this is resulting in amazing changes in behaviour, including decreased violence. It has also led to increased confidence for many more women like Mary, and safer and more positive home-lives for children.
We are now adapting this powerful approach for use in nine other countries, including Nigeria, Myanmar, Iraq and Brazil. Thank you for lifting up this work in prayer.
Saturday 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It also marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Look out for our twitter feed for daily information to inform your prayers.
- Praise God that his truth is setting people free and restoring relationships between men and women to what they should be.
- Pray for more faith and community leaders to recognise the influence they have in this area and use it to oppose the beliefs that allow for violence against women.
- Pray for continued impact as the Transforming Masculinities programme is developed and expanded in other countries.