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Rape is not a “Women’s Issue”

2011 November 18

SFCG's new poster campaign against sexual violence: Translation: TOP - Who of these women deserved to be raped? BOTTOM - Nothing, and no one, can justify rape.

 Our Chief Program Officer, Lena Slachmuijlder, was recently interviewed by Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) regarding SFCG’s strategy to prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the DRC which engages men as equal partners and stakeholders.

Men Can Stop Rape aims to mobilize men to create cultures free from violence, especially against women. They support and initiate programs that generate positive role models which reinforce their vision. Lena’s interview is part of MCSR’s masculinity conversation series and is published in two parts.

Lena spoke of her experience leading SFCG DRC, where she was Country Director. SFCG uses a number of tools to address different populations about how they can prevent violence against women and lessen the stigma that so often surrounds survivors of rape. SFCG has a multi-pronged approach to preventing SGBV in DRC that includes mobile cinema, participatory theater, radio and television call-in shows and dramas and even comic books. Our famous character, Mopila the taxi driver got his start on a radio show that has since spawned a comic book series. The sixth and most recent editions, Mopila on the Avenue of Love, explores the specific challenges women face and presents solutions to how women and girls can be respected, paying special attention to pupil-teacher relationships and sexual harassment based on “dress.” In the scene below, the character Julienne accepts an invitation for extra math tutoring from her teacher, but he has ulterior motives:

Our Vrai Djo campaign shows positive examples of male behavior and depicts them as having a role to play in preventing violence. As Lena told MCSR, “The Vrai Djo video spots were also not about showing a man doing something wrong. Instead, we showed a man in a series of situations resembling common interactions with women, and doing the right thing, doing it naturally, doing it confidently, doing it strongly.”

One of our most recent initiatives is a poster campaign (above) that tackles the stigma and consequences of rape, for women but also for wider society. It emphasizes that rape is not a “women’s issue” but a societal issue.

See the rest of the posters here.

Lena speaks about balances of power and attitudes that make rape so pervasive and grant impunity to its perpetrators, as well as ways SFCG has included men and male perspectives in the discussion:

I think what was important for us was what we learned from doing a couple years of trying to prevent sexual violence and reaching out to a mass population – through radio programs, through taking a film out and showing it in village after village, by doing comic books, by doing participatory theater. We felt as though we were raising awareness around certain things – that rape is illegal, what constitutes rape, you know, the basics, because some of those definitions have been mixed up with cultures and traditions. But we often found that these sensitizations were creating another reaction on behalf of the men in the audiences. They felt as though they were not getting attention; they invariably stood up and said that they, men, had been raped. But that was coming largely from feeling disempowered. They would often use this phrase, “Women are raping us” referring to the way that women dress or the fact that they have money, giving the impression that the men are unable to resist, and the women are able do whatever they want….

…We were running into a wall telling men what they shouldn’t do. And so we said there aren’t enough efforts to give them a model, an ideal. We wanted them to feel attracted to being confident and powerful and cool and good looking, while they were respecting women.

Read the rest of the interview…

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