At its core, our ministry is about vulnerable women and children in sub-Saharan Africa – and for important reason. Though overall global progress has been made in reducing infection rates and deaths related to HIV & AIDS, it is the women of sub-Saharan Africa that remain highly vulnerable and impacted by the disease and the complex array of ripple effects it has on their lives, families and communities. (see two great UN reports related to this issue: UNAIDS and UN Women).
From widows’ programs, safe motherhood groups, WOW MotherCare and community rape crisis counsellors, we aim to bring powerful transformation in the lives of vulnerable women. From poverty to livelihood, from sickness to health, from pain to healing. But it begs the question – what about the men?
Men indeed, have a vital role to play when it comes to restoring the status of women. Campaigns like the UN’s “He for She”, championed by the famous Emma Watson bears evidence to our culture’s emerging stance that men must be involved in this serious and important issue.
So what do “men for women” look like in WOW Communities? We’d like you to meet Alek.
Alek Lazalo is a women’s rights advocate in Mtandile, Malawi. Alek joined the rape crisis support unit after realizing the rampant abuse that was happening in his desperately poor peri-urban community. He was outraged and knew that widespread sexual and physical violence was against the teachings and example of Jesus. As part of his volunteering, Alek counsels men on how they should treat their wives. Using the Bible as his manual, Alek talks to community members about respect and how they should interact with their wives, daughters, sisters and neighbours. He tells his fellow men that God teaches us to love and that abuse is detestable. Alek has noticed a real transformation in the hearts of men since reaching out to them. More men are asking questions and changing their own behaviour towards the women in their lives. The more men that come alongside women and lift them up, the stronger their community will be. Alek tells them; strong relationships build strong families, strong families build strong communities, and strong communities build stable nations.
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By Cheryl Martin, Donor Relationships and Communication