Barbershop Tool Box launched

Lilongwe: Government has said it believes men could be used as change agents and defenders of women’s rights in the country.

Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Welfare, Cecilia Chazama made the remarks Friday at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe when she officially launched National Barbershop Tool-Box initiative in Malawi.

She said the promotion of women’s rights could not be achieved if men are completely left out in the process hence the need to involve them fully in all related activities.

Chazama noted that the Barbershop-toolbox offers men a critical role to ensure that they are not left alone in the issues of promoting women’s right and curbing gender based violence among societies.

A dialogue in the male spaces such as beer halls, religious places and political parties has the power to stop negative social norms and practices that undermine the rights of women and girls. We must shift the dialogue in these platforms where men begin to question the values and belief systems that have for so long perpetrated discriminatory behaviour and impunity against women and girls in our society, she pointed out.

The Minister observed that toolbox compliments the initiatives being spearheaded by President Peter Mutharika as one of the nine Global HeforShe Impact Champions since 2015.

She said the President sets a great example and demonstrates political will at the highest level of Government.

Through the HeforShe Movement, men are taking part to sensitise other men, build rapport and engage communities in tackling stereotypes and begin to champion change of negative masculinities. The Tool Box builds synergies and complementarity of effort, Chazama added.

She said government has committed to implement Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (2015), End Violence Against Women and Empower Women Economically in the country which has seen a strong change and movement that is being led by traditional leaders and other prominent figures.

The Minister said that in line with these initiatives that Government embraces the Barbershop Toolbox as a tool that provides tested guidance on male engagement at all the levels to become leaders in changing the gender and women empowerment narratives.

Chazama pointed out that the launch was an important toolbox within the 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender Based Violence whose national theme for this year is End Gender Based Violence in the World of Work and Tertiary Institutions.

Men and boys have a crucial role in eliminating violence against women since they are perpetrators in many cases. The theme surely speaks of the main spaces where most men are found in their day today activities. Most of the leaders are males, whose joining the HeforShe Campaign can change the welfare and status of women at the place of work by promoting equity, she added:

Chazama thanked Government of Iceland and UN Women for choosing the country to be among the pioneers to rollout the Barbershop Tool Box Initiative.

The Minister stated that the Government of Iceland through Iceland International Development Agency (ICEIDA) is a true partner in many areas including the promotion of gender equality.

She commended UN Women for the strong commitment to ensure that the HeforShe Campaign yield the desirable results at all the levels.

UN Women representative to Malawi, Clara Anyangwe said advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment requires innovative and inclusive approach.

She said one of such approaches is that which recognizes men and boys as partners for women’s and girl’s rights in which acknowledges the ways in which men and boys could benefit from this equality.

The HeforShe initiatives goes beyond awareness and it is about meaningful action by providing clear opportunities to stand up for gender equality by taking decisive action an inspiring others to do the same, Anyangwe added.

ICEIDA Charge d’ Affaires, Agusta Gisladottir said the Barbershop initiative was introduced in 2014 in Iceland as one way of promoting gender equality.

She said the development of the initiative has helped men and boys to realize their roles in promoting gender equality issues within their communities.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA