Every Young Man Has a Role in Ending Violence Against Women:
An Interview with Joseph Kangwa Kaluba
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was commemorated on 25 November 2016, a date which also marked the start of the “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign” to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. Gender-based violence is a term used to describe harmful acts perpetrated against a person based on socially ascribed differences between males and females and examples include sexual exploitation and abuse, child marriage, sexual harassment, honour killing and domestic or intimate partner violence. While significant challenges remain to prevent and end violence against women worldwide, including a substantial funding shortfall to support programmes, successful initiatives to prevent and end such violence exist. One such initiative, Champions of Change, a Plan International project, actively engages young men to carry out community actions to challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes. In honour of this year’s International Day, Joseph Kangwa Kaluba, who recently attended a Champions of Change Training of Trainers in Zambia, was interviewed about his efforts to end gender-based violence against women and girls.
Question: As a young man, what prompted your interest in working to end gender-based violence against women and girls, specifically to combat child marriage?
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba: My passion to join the fight against gender-based violence was triggered by my childhood experience. I grew up seeing my mom helplessly being beaten by my father, without anyone coming to her rescue. I saw how she tried to empower herself but all her efforts would end in vain. Due to the abuse she went through, I felt the need to ensure that other women around me, especially my sisters, do not go through any form of abuse. Additionally, there is a high rate of teenage pregnancies in Zambia — with about 42 per cent of girls getting married before the age of 18 mainly because of teen pregnancies. I have seen my female colleagues dropout of school due to pregnancy and eventually be pushed into marriage. This situation prompted me to join many others who are fighting an end to teen pregnancy and child marriage.
Question: Why is it important for young men to champion gender equality and the empowerment of girls and young women?
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba: As young men, we need to take an active stance and challenge injustice and inequalities that exist in our communities. We cannot continue being silent; we need to acknowledge our role in stopping gender-based violence and other issues that affect girls and women – because these are issues that also affect us as young men. We need to engage in promoting gender equality because as young men we can raise our voices against inequality once and for all. In doing so we must invite other young men who share our vision of change and reach those ones who do not. Through our journey for equality we need to acknowledge all the efforts and progress that girls and women have made towards achieving equality and we must support them. It is also important for us to realize that for sustainable development to take place, girls and women cannot be left behind.
Question: What types of work do you do in your community with the organization that you volunteer with to challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes?
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba: I am a member of the Youth Advisory Panel for Plan International Zambia. My colleagues and I use this platform to talk to our peers about gender issues such as girls’ rights, the role of boys and young men, child marriage and education. Television and radio are some of the platforms that we use to reach out to our communities. We also use social media to have conversations about gender norms and stereotypes with our civic leaders, community leaders and of course, our fellow youth.
Question: What are some of your accomplishments in this work to date and what challenges do you feel you have faced as a young man working to reduce gender-based violence?
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba: Through our work in the Youth Advisory Panel, we have gained recognition from different media houses, giving us a platform to speak out on gender-related issues free of charge. These platforms have allowed us to gain a lot of ground to engage more youth about gender issues. As a result, young people, both male and female, want to join the movement to end child marriage. Furthermore, together with Plan International Zambia and Plan International Netherlands, we organized a 700 kilometre cycling event to the Eastern Province of Zambia. This event involved 32 cyclists who were participating to raise funds to end child marriage in the country. As young people, we took advantage of this initiative to conduct child marriage awareness activities along aside the cycling event. This has been our largest awareness project to date, where we successfully engaged hundreds of fellow youth through radio talks, door-to-door campaigns and roadshows to join the movement to end child marriage.
Personally, I have decided that I will stand by girls and young women in their efforts to raise their voices and champion their rights. It is for this reason that I supported the 2016 “Girls Takeover” Event, one of more than 250 events across the globe in which girls took over the positions of leaders around the world to demonstrate the power of girls on the International Day of the Girl (on 11 October 2016). I took time to motivate girls in my youth group to make decisions that would benefit girls in the positions they took over and I was with them on the actual day to offer moral support. I have recently attended a training by Plan International for Champions for Change. This will also give us the necessary tools to open spaces of reflection as we invite other boys and young men to be part of the formation of a social movement against gender-based violence.
Question: What advice would you give to other young men, including those who may want to do similar work?
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba: As young people ourselves, we should be able to see ourselves as equal to girls and young women and thus have the need to fight for gender equality so that we develop as one. I urge my fellow young men to get involved in championing the end of gender-based violence in your communities. Be part of the movement and use your creativity to ‘hook’ or invite others to join this fight! If you like sports or arts and do these activities in your community, use those passions to involve others. This means using your interests to reach others and open safe spaces for reflection and collective actions.
About Joseph Kangwa Kaluba:
Joseph Kangwa Kaluba is a member of Plan International Zambia’s Youth Advisory Panel. He is a young advocate for gender equality work in his country and he uses social media and radio to reach out to other boys and young men, and invite them to join their different initiatives.
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Youth in Action
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