A Long Way To Go: Gender Based Violence Sensitization
I came across a newspaper article about the Ndirande Police Station Victim Support Unit going on a gender-based violence sensitization tour targeting business women in Blantyre's Majiga market. "What a great initiative right?" . Well some of the main key points shared with the women on how to fight against gender based violence were : women must respect their husbands, they should not refuse to have sex with their husbands even if they don't want to, and they should consult their husbands before making any financial decisions, such as taking out loans.
What concerns me the most about all of this is that the police officers are female and members of the victim support unit at their police station ; if this is what they believe and stand for, how do you think they approach and deal with cases of gender-based violence? These officers went on to blame women for the abuse they receive, believing that rude women deserve to be beaten or subjected to any form of violence. They went out communicating dangerous messages that women have to be nice to men to avoid being harassed or abused by men.
I'm glad we have witnessed it for ourselves and heard the opinions of those who are supposed to look out for and support us. This article draws our attention to the fact that different individuals who work in various departments are not all equipped with the best knowledge and skills which are required for them to successfully do their jobs.
Assuming that ones position automatically alters one’s flawed and prejudiced views on issues like gender equality, gender-based violence, is foolish. A lot of us including women and girls grew up in a patriarchal society. The lens through which we view the world are highly influenced by this patriarchal upbringing. This is to say that we cannot expect women and girls to wake up one day and forget all of the conditioning they had growing up .
To quote Bell Hooks, "In the fight against equality women must also be targeted as well as men." Being a woman does not automatically mean that one understands what equality is or how much it means to women. Institutions and organizations should take an initiative to train individuals both men and women before appointing them to certain positions that directly impact women's lives and affect issues of equality. Some of the positions which people hold can be detrimental if the individuals holding them are not able to let go of their toxic beliefs that might affect how they carry out their work.
It's disheartening to hear women in positions who work directly with victims of gender-based violence spew information that contradicts their entire unit's mission. I believe this will not be happening again.
No one is perfect and cannot know everything and this is why it important for different institutions to hold trainings and seminars to educate its employees on gender related issues.