The Uncommon Man

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October 31, 2006

Thoughts from Liberia

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2006 18:02:37

Dear friends and colleagues,

I've made it to Liberia. The country is completely amazing. Bombed buildings and UN peacekeepers everywhere. Hordes of yellow taxis honking their way through streets crowded with colorful people. A country in post-war jubiliation and trauma, reminds me of traveling to Israel one month after the 1967 war.

The International Rescue Committee is one among many major international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) with high visibility. This is a world I am quickly learning to understand and navigate.

The people in the GBV (gender-based violence) program are a wonderful mix of internationals (from the U.S., Kenya, Ethiopia among other), and Liberians, many of whom have been involved during the war. The new male involvement coordinator, Joseph Bala, is very intelligent and compassionate and has a smile that is even bigger than mine. Today we met with a number of the male and female staff of IRC. They now have a very good feeling for the MRI strategy and style, and I can say confidently that there is a feeling of alliance that is already very strong.

Tomorrow we meet with people from the Ministry of Gender and Development, another important constituency to build relationship with.

I am thrilled about these challenges, and miss having my colleague James with me to share them. I am sending my love out to him as he travels today to Nigeria.

With love to you all from Africa,

Steven Botkin
Executive Director
Men's Resources International

Posted by Daniel at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2006

Steven Botkin: Leaving for Liberia

Today I’m getting on a plane to Liberia. Six days later I fly to Nigeria. In both places Men’s Resources International will be working with women and men who are committed to ending violence in their communities.

In Liberia MRI has been contracted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help develop and launch a “Men’s Involvement Project.” The IRC already has gender-based violence programs providing services to women in many of the countries where they work. When I land in Monrovia on Sunday night, I will begin five days of consultation with IRC staff and the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development with whom they are working closely. We will be preparing for a return visit in early 2007 when MRI will conduct an extensive MRI training of Liberian men to be outreach workers and facilitators of men’s involvement in gender-based violence prevention.

Next Friday, a short flight will take me to Lagos, Nigeria. At the airport, if all goes well, I will meet up with Fidele from Rwanda (who just started the Rwanda Men’s Centre), Stephen and Stanislaus from Zambia (leaders of the Zambian Men’s Network). Together, we will travel via air and car to the Nigerian city, Abakaliki. MRI Associate Director, James Arana, (who will have already been in Abakaliki for two days), and I will then conduct an MRI training for the Ebonyi Men’s Resource Centre, where the MRI training will take place.

We return together to Massachusetts on November 14.

As you can imagine, I am filled with excitement by the many challenges and opportunities of this journey. We will do our best to send regular journal updates and photographs to Daniel Coyne, at MRI headquarters in Springfield, who will post them on our website weblog, where you can also post your comments and questions.

Our mission, “mobilizing networks of men, in alliance with women, to act as role models for violence prevention and positive masculinity,” is guiding us in the journey. Your love and support is welcome and deeply appreciated. We know we do not travel alone.

Posted by Daniel at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2006

Coverage of 'School Shootings' Avoids the Central Issue

(Via Men's Initiative for Jane Doe Inc.)
Posted by: craign on Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 11:25 PM - by Jackson Katz - In the many hours devoted to analyzing the recent school shootings, once again we see that as a society we seem constitutionally unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge a simple but disturbing fact: these shootings are an extreme manifestation of one of contemporary American society’s biggest problems -- the ongoing crisis of men’s violence against women.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so let’s take a good hard look at these latest horrific cases of violence on the domestic front. On September 27, a heavily armed 53-year-old man walked into a Colorado high school classroom, forced male students to leave, and took a group of girls hostage. He then proceeded to terrorize the girls for several hours, killing one and allegedly sexually assaulting some or all of the others before killing himself.

Less than a week later, a heavily armed 32-year-old man walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and ordered about 15 boys to leave the room, along with a pregnant woman and three women with infants. He forced the remaining girls, aged 6 to 13, to line up against a blackboard, where he tied their feet together. He then methodically executed five of the girls with shots to the head and critically wounded several others before taking his own life.

Just after the Amish schoolhouse massacre, Pennsylvania Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said in an emotional press conference, “It seems as though (the perpetrator) wanted to attack young, female victims.”

How did mainstream media cover these unspeakable acts of gender violence? The New York Times ran an editorial that identified the “most important” cause as the easy access to guns in our society. NPR did a show which focused on problems in rural America. Forensic psychologists and criminal profilers filled the airwaves with talk about how difficult it is to predict when a “person” will snap. And countless exasperated commentators -- from fundamentalist preachers to secular social critics -- abandoned any pretense toward logic and reason in their rush to weigh in with metaphysical musings on the incomprehensibility of “evil.”

Incredibly, few if any prominent voices in the broadcast or print media have called the incidents what they are: hate crimes perpetrated by angry white men against defenseless young girls, who – whatever the twisted motives of the shooters -- were targeted for sexual assault and murder precisely because they are girls.

What is it going to take for our society to deal honestly with the extent and depth of this problem? How many more young girls have to die before decision-makers in media and other influential institutions stop averting their eyes from the lethal mix of deep misogyny and violent masculinity at work here? In response to the recent spate of shootings, the White House announced plans to bring together experts in education and law enforcement. The goal was to discuss “the nature of the problem” and federal action that can assist communities with violence prevention. This approach is misdirected. Instead of convening a group of experts on “school safety,” the president should catalyze a long-overdue national conversation about sexism, masculinity, and men’s violence against women.

For us to have any hope of truly preventing not only extreme acts of gender violence, but also the incidents of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence that are a daily part of millions of women’s and girls’ lives, we need to have this conversation. And we need many more men to participate. Men from every level of society need to recognize that violence against women is a men’s issue.

A similar incident to the Amish schoolhouse massacre took place in Canada in 1989. A heavily armed 25-year-old man walked into a classroom at the University of Montreal. He forced the men out of the classroom at gunpoint, and then opened fire on the women. He killed fourteen women and injured many more, before committing suicide.

In response to this atrocity, in 1991 a number of Canadian men created the White Ribbon Campaign. The idea was for men to wear a white ribbon as a way of making a visible and public pledge “never to commit, condone, nor remain silent about violence against women.” The White Ribbon Campaign has since become a part of Canadian culture, and it has been adapted in dozens of countries.

After the horrors in this country over the past two weeks, the challenge for American men is clear: will we respond to these recent tragedies by averting our eyes and pretending that none of this happened? Or will we at long last break our complicit silence and work together with women to turn these tragedies into a transformative cultural moment?

Jackson Katz is the author of "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help" (Sourcebooks, 2006).

Posted by Daniel at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2006

UN Study on Violence Against Children Released Today

Via Global Violence Prevention Advocacy Newsletter
(Contact Fran Henry)

On October 11 the United Nation's Secretary-General received and released to the public the UN Secretary- General's Study on Violence Against Children. The study reports on and makes recommendations concerning violence and abuse directed at children around the world.

The report calls for immediate attention to the pervasive harm that children are subjected to in their homes, in workplaces, in schools and institutions, and in the community. It specifically asks that countries address legal issues, such as the death penalty, and social issues, such as the belief that children can and should be subjected to corporal punishment.

Click here to read the study.

Posted by Daniel at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

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