Domestic violence is an issue that affects the lives of men, women and children, yet it is often seen solely as a women’s issue. A group in South Africa uses a unique tactic to get men involved in curbing domestic violence.
The Everyday Hero Campaign of the 5-in-6 Project in South Africa asks women to identify men with a positive attitude toward women and then invites these men to become new advocates for women’s rights.
The rate of violence against women in South Africa is among the highest in the world for all countries not at war. Research shows that one man in six here abuses the women in his life. The 5-in-6 Project targets the other five men, those who do not abuse women. The project has developed the Everyday Hero campaign to find these men and involve them in the struggle. Volunteers go house to house to ask women for information about the good, positive men who live there. With nominations also sent by mail, more than 50,000 responses have identified the “best” fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers and male friends in the country. The names and recommendation forms decorate local churches, spreading awareness of the campaign and increasing its popularity.
Volunteers from this list of names are invited to meetings discussing “community problems,” and involving men of various ages, experiences, social classes and financial situations. Meetings focus on developing collaborative, nonviolent solutions to the problem of violence against women. Additional workshops help men understand the power relations between genders, build self-esteem and find positive ways to deal with difficult domestic situations. Many participants have noticed dramatic changes in their level of consciousness about domestic violence, and in their ability to engage other men on the issue. For many, it is the first time they have ever spoken out on these issues and the result has been powerful.
By recognizing and honoring local male role models, the 5-in-6 project is able to connect with a cross-section of positive male role models in the community, engaging them to discuss and identify solutions to domestic violence and to see that it is an underlying part of the other problems faced in their communities.
This nomination campaign helps identify “potential allies”—people who care about a particular issue but are not actively involved in it. They may be uninvolved because they don’t see it affecting them or simply because they have never had the opportunity to do so or because society has traditionally distanced them from the issue.
Once the 5-in-6 Project identifies these passive allies, it helps some of them become active allies and the effect grows: these active allies, given the necessary tools and information, talk to other men, creating more allies for women’s rights.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.