Monday, October 10, 2016

The True Story

Awett Jared
Awett Jared, the founder of MAIN, has broken stereotypes by speaking about a less-spoken-about issue, the issue of violence against men and boys. MAIN was established to work with men to end domestic violence in Kenya. The idea behind MAIN was mooted on upsurge in cases of domestic violence meted on men as reported by the media and the subsequent public backlash on women’s empowerment. Here is Awett's story.

I am a male activist. I currently work as the Programs Manager of an organization that works on the issue of violence against men, women, boys and girls. I am thirty five years old. I was born and grew up in a poor rural community in Kenya. I went to primary school and secondary school all at rural as well.

After my secondary education, my parents died. I had to feed and educate my siblings, since I was the first born in a family of eight. I did not have any work. So, to put bread on the table, I went to the nearest city to find work. It was not easy, but I managed to odd jobs and enrolled myself in a college to study Sales and Marketing, and Business Management.

With time, I got a job with an airlines company. I worked there for two years. When my contract with them came to an end, I did not renew it. Instead, I opted to do some community work, since I had the passion for social work. I started by volunteering in an NGO and also started learning the roles one could have in a place that did social work.

I went ahead and began to attend different training programmes in community development and project management. Through my participation at the community level, I developed interest in human rights. My first assignments were in the field of human rights advocacy. I then proceeded to work in a peace organization, where my roles related to human rights training, facilitation and peace building.
After doing this for another three years, I started developing interest in the issue of gender-based violence. This was mostly because I had a sister who went through a violent relationship, and at the same time, I too was a victim. I also had many of my friends who were victims of violence in their relationships.

I then decided that I wanted to help get a solution for myself, my sister and my friends, and to society. That was when a few friends of mine and I joined up and founded the Masculinity Institute. It is a vehicle that we use to bring to the attention of the public, that domestic violence is continuing to destroy so many relationships, and stress on the need to end it.

We work to transform social attitudes and practices that perpetuate all forms of violence caused by negative ethnic socialization and gender discrimination that affect women and girls most. MAIN believes that this is the right time to change outdated cultural practices and religious doctrines which have contributed to negative socialization. The acceptance of violence has pushed boys and men into aggressive behaviours in some parts of Kenya especially those inhabited by the pastoral communities and the slums around the country. By eradicating archaic cultural practices men will be able to take responsibility and eradicate gender discrimination and together men, women, boys and girls will make meaningful contribution to development. As a process to ensure that transformation is fast tracked, MAIN mobilize, empower and re socialize men and boys to uphold human rights principles and values to ensure that all members of community live in dignity. When individuals inspire positive change at domestic level, they set a good example which should be adopted in the communities where they live and beyond.

There have been many challenges on the way – but one of the major ones is the lack of resources to address the issue of gender based violence. We have, however, managed to address it by networking with other partners and organizations to address the issue at a larger scale. The response has been so amazing. We are happy for having helped change the attitude of men and women on issues of violence. We also work with religious and cultural leaders who are the gate keepers of our communities and they have also been able to help address the negative norms that perpetuate violence against women.