Specialists say men, youth have role in changing gender-based violence
Panelists in the Gender-Based Violence webinar for business People. (from left) are: Stephanie Graham, strategic project manager, Flow; Nardia McLaren, director and community liaison coordinator, Bureau of Gender Affairs; Dr Craig McNally, licensed counselling psychologist; and Phadra Saunders; director business partner, Flow.

SOME specialists are contending that men and youth should form a critical part of the target group for education and sociological change in efforts to stop gender-based violence.

Leading the call was Nardia McLaren, Dr Craig McNally, and Phadra Saunders during a recent Flow Jamaica's Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Awareness Webinar, which was streamed live under the theme 'Breaking the Silence — Taking Action'. The theme is reflective of the hurt, physically and mentally, that many are experiencing but afraid to speak of.

McLaren, director and community liaison, Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), defines gender-based violence as any harm or hurt to anyone because of his/her sex, noting that it includes domestic abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape, bullying, human trafficking, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, among other things.

In highlighting the Men Deh Ya programme recently rolled out by the bureau, McLaren said, "Men are still in positive places and spaces." Noting that "positive role models are lacking", she that the BGA also has a Young Fathers Programme in which young men are trained how to be good fathers.

"We do have an issue of fathering and fatherless in Jamaica," McLaren said. "Young men and boys are [more often] the perpetrators. We have to bring them into the conversation…we can't leave them out."

To bring about change, she said, requires a shift in the ways how men have traditionally been viewed.

"Victimisation, blaming, shaming…we've a culture that is very harsh on men. Our cultural ideology is very harsh on men," she said, reflecting on how they are portrayed.

"If you want men to be better fathers, you have to show what you want — love, respect, sharing, family, proper love...and not showing the violence because you see it every day. They don't know how to be loving fathers and spouses because they've never had it [a loving father]," McLaren assessed.

Dr McNally, a licensed associate counselling psychologist, who has been practising psychotherapy for more than 10 years, said culture and a parental superstructure are major contributing factors.

"The culture, patriarchal superstructure saying that men and women should behave a particular way, and sub-cultures also encourage it. If there's no education done to say it's legally wrong, then they will continue these behaviours," said Dr McNally.

"Repetitive behaviours and the inter-generational dynamics…they experienced it as young children and then perpetrate it against their partners. And the disabled, they are twice as likely to be abused."

Change behaviour, Dr McNally added, to a large degree, reflect reverse psychology.

"Avoid saying things like, 'You look like your worthless father,' " he said of a commonly used Jamaican term among mothers. "A lot of the aggression you see mothers exert towards their sons is because of things done by their fathers."

A subsidiary of communications conglomerate Liberty Latin America, Flow Jamaica hosted the webinar ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was observed globally on Friday, November 25.

Phadra Saunders, director, people business partner, Flow Jamaica, stated that the inclusion of women in that aspect of the discussion was significant, while pointing to research on GBV.

"Dr Herbert Gayle's study, 'Most Murderous Men in Society', says that they've never known a nurturing mother. The terms in which they describe the mother are very angry, resentful," she shared.

"This points to the need to be loving and kind. There needs to be a balance in the ecosystem. Lack of recognition of the thump, the kick, the verbal lashing from our women — that's where it starts."

Figures from the Jamaica National Survey show that 27.8 per cent of women are affected by gender-based violence; 25.2 per cent have experienced physical violence alone at the hands of a male partner; and 25 per cent of women in Jamaica have been abused by men who are not their partner.

"Our organisation stands against violence in all its forms, including gender-based violence," Saunders stated. "We know that violence against women is a major public and clinical health problem and it's a violation against women's rights."

Pointing to post-pandemic studies, Saunders shared that 45 per cent of women reported that they or a woman who they know has experienced violence, while seven out of 10 women say they think verbal abuse by a partner, including by marriage, has become more common. She also highlighted Flow's policy addressing Gender-Based Violence. Launched a year ago, the policy offers relocation, paid time off, legal aid, and other support, where necessary, to impacted employees.

Given these trends, the panellists agreed that the socialising influence among the young needs alteration to fix the generational issues.

"Victim today, abuser tomorrow," McLaren shared. "Children are immensely affected by gender-based violence because once they experience violence they normalise that violence and think that it's okay to perpetuate it, so they grow up to be a victim in the future or an abuser."

Saunders proposed gender ambassadors.

"Just creating the awareness from the school level. Children have rights too," she said. "[It's about] building the capability to identify when and where it's happening and being able to speak about it, then reinforcing the right things to do, reinforcing conversations about love. Build the capability of role modelling," she said.

"Raise the awareness that this is happening and it's not okay. Provide an opening in schools where kids can talk about it," Saunders added. "Maybe at that level you can stem it and nip it in the bud."

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