Men being used in campaign to combat gender-based violence
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Coordinator of the Guyana Help and Shelter, Colin Marks
Coordinator of the Guyana Help and Shelter, Colin Marks

AS the world observes 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, Help and Shelter is using men as activists to combat this social ill.
The observance which is being held under the theme, “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!” started on November 25.

In an interview with this publication, Coordinator of the Guyana Help and Shelter, Colin Marks, spoke about the creation of the acronym MASSAVE (Men Are Standing Strongly Against Violence Everyday).

He explained that men groups are being sought and reached out to and posters were created with popular men making statements such as “I am masculine but that doesn’t mean I am toxic,” and “These hands were made to create not to violate.”

Further, he said Help and Shelter is reaching out to Corporate Guyana, especially those that sell male apparel to share posters that can spread the message to men.

Marks said many men need sessions on male therapy and psychoeducation, which help men reassess themselves and the root causes of violence.
“Violence is a symptom gone wrong in an intimate partner relationship, so we help them to track back as far as childhood, and it is amazing some of the things that are discovered,” he said.

According to Marks, a space is offered at the Help and Shelter where men’s vulnerabilities are shared and they are held accountable for their actions.

“Group discussions are used to strengthen the programmes that will be offered to men in 2022. Many male perpetrators are caught up in the arms of the law and sometimes they need help, and once it’s the opinion of a judge or a magistrate there is a reconciliation agenda, but if it’s too toxic, we advise that there be a parting of ways…we give men our time with the understanding of accountability,” he shared.

He reflected that music keeps the company of many men because of their jobs or hobbies and many forms of music glorify violence, sending the wrong messages to men.

However, he said “it is our desire that no one should be affected by violence and we want to change those attitudes towards violence in our society.”
Currently, he said laws have been reformed to bring about change in the courts of law for justice being brought to victims of violence. Noting that there are gaps, he said work is being done to advocate for a better society.

While underscoring that over 90 per cent of reported abuse cases are perpetrated against women, the coordinator noted that men are at a higher level of vulnerability to be perpetrators.

“I have worked with a lot of men and sometimes their actions are a symptom of a relationship gone wrong. When intimate partner violence is considered, and in other situations, there are issues threaded to their childhood, sometimes issues in their adolescence and the changes that continue to affect their lives,” he explained.

He continued: “We stress at all times accountability. They have to be accountable for violence; there is no letting off, and they must also review how patriarchy plays a part in their lives, and that speaks to the socialisation where men are privileged.”

Meanwhile, the Help and Shelter coordinator said that the agency is also encouraging sexual and reproductive health education for men. He encouraged all men to visit the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) which is working along with the Help and Shelter with funding partner Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA).

The CFPA is a regional organisation, consisting of members in 19 English, Dutch and French territories in the Caribbean and is devoted to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

Help and Shelter is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which was formed in response to the high incidence of violence, alcoholism and poverty in Guyana, the increase in family instability and the lack of support for victims wishing to leave abusive situations and/or in need of counselling and crisis services.

The NGO was registered as a not-for-profit company in November 1994 and was formally launched on November 26, 1995 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women).

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