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Preventing gender-based violence by working with boys and men
by Rizwan Latif

UNV volunteer Rizwan Latif (standing) works as Outreach & Capacity Development Officer at ROZAN, an Islamabad based NGO working on issues related to emotional and psychological health, gender, violence against women and children, and the psychological and reproductive health of adolescents. (UNV)UNV volunteer Rizwan Latif (standing) works as Outreach & Capacity Development Officer at ROZAN, an Islamabad based NGO working on issues related to emotional and psychological health, gender, violence against women and children, and the psychological and reproductive health of adolescents. (UNV)
11 March 2010

Islamabad, Pakistan: I’m a national UNV volunteer working as Outreach and Capacity Development Officer at ROZAN, an Islamabad based NGO working on issues related to emotional and psychological health, gender, violence against women and children, and the psychological and reproductive health of adolescents. ROZAN is a partner organization of Partners for Prevention (P4P), a UN Regional Joint Programme on the “Prevention of Gender-based Violence by Working with Boys and Men” of UNDP, UNFPA, UNIFEM and UNV in Asia-Pacific.

I believe individual self-growth is the key to bringing changes to society for the promotion of human development. Pakistan is a country where the majority of the population is comprised of youth. Access to basic necessities and knowledge is a very big challenge and youth is the most vulnerable segment of society. Engaging youth for gender equality is possible only when both men and women realize their individual roles and responsibilities to contribute to a society free of violence.

Being a UNV volunteer gives me the opportunity to engage men and boys in order to stop violence against women and promote gender equality. The main objective of the promotion of volunteerism is to achieve peace and development and to turn global development challenges around. Through the promotion of volunteerism and volunteers, there are opportunities to prevent gender-based violence in general and violence against women in particular. I feel gender equality or violence issues are my own issues and this is my motivation. It is great to fight for a cause and involve individuals and groups to bring changes in society, particularly on the gender-based violence issue.

Women in Pakistan are the most marginalized segment of society. The main problem women are facing is the negligence of their role by their own partners, family and state. There are cultural barriers and strictness, which prohibit women from competing and promoting self-awareness and growth. Several issues are associated with women only, i.e. lack of education, of basic health facilities, violence (physical, sexual, psychological) etc. State level policies especially related to violence against women exist, but proper implementation is still a big challenge.

To assign a UNV volunteer to support a local organization is a very innovative idea. This particular UNV assignment through P4P and ROZAN will provide me with an opportunity for self-growth to understand and gain knowledge on this specific issue of male involvement to prevent gender-based violence. In our society, men will be the main active agents to bring about change, since due to lack of understanding and persistent traditional cultural practices, women have still a very limited space.

Volunteers engaging men and boys for gender-based violence prevention will be a major resource for interventions and activities to stop and put an end to gender-based violence. The volunteers will make a difference through the dissemination of relevant knowledge, and by demonstrating in a practical way their commitment and willingness to initiate self-actions to end gender-based violence, and violence against women in particular. Through the involvement of media, volunteers will be able to effectively communicate and involve every part of society to stop gender-based violence.

At ROZAN, I am associated with a project called “Hamqadam – male involvement initiative to address gender-based violence”. It aims to initiate and sustain change in male (men and boys) attitudes about themselves and their role in society, sensitizing them about the issue of violence against children and women.

Patriarchal society and its links to gender-based violence are very pressing issues, particularly in Pakistani society. It’s a very interesting and unique work to highlight and understand the factors responsible for gender-based violence and violence against women. A formative research, which was conducted by ROZAN focusing on male dominance and its link to violence, gave me an insight into how male dominance is constructed by society. The gender equitable men (GEM) scale adaptation system, which was implemented in the intervention areas of the Hamqadam project by ROZAN, is a very effective tool to measure the perception and attitudes of the community.

ROZAN believes in the essence and importance of volunteers for human development. Within the organization, a volunteer management system is functioning effectively. A volunteer coordination committee is working within the ROZAN programmes. Every programme by ROZAN has established a volunteer network engaging volunteers to prevent gender-based violence and violence against women.

There are also other implementation strategies in the Hamqadam project activities under the umbrella of ROZAN. Prevention of gender-based violence and violence against women is a very interesting and distinctive area of work and I feel a great pleasure to be part of it. Addressing complex issues around core thematic areas, with focus and dedication, to bring about change in society gives me great motivation.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)