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Engaging Men to End Gender-Based Violence Against Women

Did you know the world is struggling with another chronic pandemic?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,  Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against women is escalating throughout the world.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It kicks off a 16 Days of Activism Campaign to bring attention to the global issue of violence against women. Currently:

  • 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.
  • As many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
  • 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.

GBV is a crime against humanity and can be sexual, physical, verbal, psychological, and economic. It includes intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and exploitation, honor killing, female genital mutilation, trafficking, rape, femicide, and child marriage. 

Where is Violence Against Women Happening?

GBV occurs in homes, in public, and at workplaces. Females are the primary victims of GBV, although there are far fewer instances of males as victims. GBV is deeply rooted in the social and cultural structures, norms, and values that govern society. The social construction of masculinity and men’s use of violence are very much interlinked. Social norms that condone men’s use of violence as a form of discipline and control serve to reinforce gender inequality and perpetuate GBV. 

GBV is one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age. Death by GBV  exceeds rates of death caused by both malaria and car accidents in this demographic (Richards & Haglund, 2015).1 GBV undermines the victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It affects not only physical health but also mental health – and it may lead to self-harm, isolation, depression, and attempted suicide.

Child marriage has been shown to have long-lasting impact on women’s education and health. Consequences include early pregnancy, abandonment, and domestic violence at the hands of both spouses and in-laws. The most prevalent adverse impact is death as a result of complications of early pregnancy.

What is Food for the Hungry (FH) doing about GBV?


boys and girls in school, girls on the left and boys on the right.

Photo: Esther Havens

Food For the Hungry’s work is anchored in the biblical truth that everyone is uniquely and specifically made in the image of God. Without regard to gender, each individual is immensely valued by God and deserves to live in dignity, free from any form of violence (Genesis 1:27, Galatians 3:28). Therefore gender equality cuts across all of our work.

FH’s Safeguarding Policy was designed to create environments free from sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment. In addition, FH is  a member of InterAction and signed the CEO Pledge  to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by NGO staff. 

Did you know: 

  • The gender pay gap costs the global economy approximately  $160 trillion in wealth (WB, 2018).2 
  • A 2021 study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicated that the global economy loses  2% GDP – estimated at $1.6 trillion yearly – as a direct result of GBV.3
  • Ending discrimination against women in agriculture could boost productivity, reduce the number of food insecure individuals by 12-17%, and lift 150 million individuals out of poverty.4
Woman wearing skirt and head scarf holding a large bushel of vegetables

Ending discrimination against women in agriculture could boost food security.

However, GBV is one of the least  recognized human rights issues. The 2021 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report indicated that, worldwide, GBV  is not being adequately addressed. 

Inadequate funding hinders the implementation of gender-responsive laws and policies, according to the Beijing Platform for Action review.  Some countries have implemented oversight through agencies such as national women’s affairs offices with the primary mission of ending discrimination and violence against women and achieving gender equality. However, these structures are not adequately supported to achieve meaningful results.5 

Engaging Men to End Violence Against Women

Efforts to end GBV falter when males are not engaged as part of the solution. Men are the principal perpetrators of violence against women and girls, and a radical mindset shift is necessary to bring about lasting behavioral change. However, it is essential to note that marginalizing men to empower women only worsens GBV. 

Instead, male engagement is critical to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. Partnering with men as allies to establish positive gender attitudes is key to changing a culture that has historically reinforced GBV.

FH implements positive gender norm development by engaging men through Gender Outreach Groups (GOG).6 This model has been shown to motivate men to exhibit positive gender relations, while improving domestic labor sharing, reducing women’s workload, and freeing women to seek needed health services. 

FH partnered with Tearfund to implement their Transforming Masculinities approach to supporting girls’ education through gender norms transformation in South Sudan. Transforming Masculinity (TM) seeks to address the root causes of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), working with men, boys, and key community influencers to shift social norms that subordinate women and girls and condone violence. The project partnered with churches, local government, and other cultural and religious institutions. It successfully improved girls’ education rates and reduced GBV.

An interview with Paramount Chief Gatluak Makuac in Yuai confirmed that the TM approach improved girls’ school-enrollment rates, helped communities develop positive gender norms, and reduced GBV, including child marriage and domestic and physical violence. 

Ways Forward to End Violence Against Women

Male engagement in addressing GBV is relatively new, and most efforts to engage boys and men in ending violence, such as HeForShe, are underfunded. 

Legislative efforts or evidence-based policies are needed that would encourage men’s involvement in the primary prevention of violence against women and girls. 

Male engagement requires multi-sectoral coordination guided by clear policies and strategies. According to USAID, male engagement should be part of an ongoing, comprehensive package of policies, programs, and services addressing underlying causes of violence with all members of the community. This should be undertaken in addition to providing critical support for survivors of GBV.7

Engaging males in this effort should begin at an early age, before they observe and/or exhibit violent behavior. Boys’ education on this topic at school age is essential in order to create a safe environment for girls, while also enabling male students to develop positive masculinity attitudes that they will be able to carry into their adult lives. 

Wherever you are, regardless of your gender, education, ethnicity, or social status, you have the power to stop gender-based violence. 

Get started to end Violence Against Women: 

  • Begin by exercising your own behavioral change.
  • Be a voice for, and actively protect, women and girls in your family and community.
  • Learn to speak out against GBV when you see evidence it is happening.
  • Use all venues including social media networks to influence your peers and networks.
  • Volunteer and/or donate to organizations working to end GBV.

Zemach Kenea is FH’s Global Gender Advisor.

Links to useful resources: 


1Richards, D. L., & Haglund, J. (2015). Violence Against Women and the Law. Routledge.
2 Globally, Countries Lose $160 Trillion in Wealth Due to Earnings Gaps Between Women and Men
3 Gender-based violence: the ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ with devastating human and economic consequences – Development Matters
 4 Doss, C. R. (2018). Women and agricultural productivity: Reframing the Issues. Development policy review, 36 (1), 35-50.
5 Kenea. Z. (2015): Policy gap analysis – The case of Gender Based Violence Against Ethiopian Young Women Migrants to the Middle East Countries. 
6 GOG is a group of couples and Female Household Heads (FHH) from adjacent villages that was convened to discuss specific gender themes.
7 USAID (2015): Working with Men and Boys to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Approaches, Challenges, and Lessons

Related blogs by FH staff writers:

Gender Matters More Than You Think

Faith-Based Organizations Need to Embrace Gender Equality

Mothers Help Girls Stay in School