The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has held its maiden National Male Conference on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Koforidua to engender national discourse on men’s role in addressing the societal menace and other negative cultural practices.
The Conference, on the theme: “Time Up! Men as Partners in Addressing Sexual And Gender-Based Violence and other Harmful Practices,” also focuses on adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights and harmful practices for ‘male champions’ in Koforidua.
It seeks to sensitise, raise awareness and share information on issues concerning child marriage and other cultural practices that impede the progress of women and girls in various communities.
Mrs Thywill Eyra Kpe, the Acting Director at the Department of Gender, who spoke on behalf of the Gender Minister, said bridging the gender gap in a highly patriarchal society like Ghana’s required effective male engagement and partnership, hence the need to bring the ‘male champions’ on board.
That, she said, would create transformational alliances with men to protect the rights and well-being of women and girls to help build and maintain a harmonious and just society towards national development.
Mrs Kpe mentioned sexual and gender-based violence as the major factor undermining the health, dignity, security and autonomy of women and girls and called on society to desist from such acts to help defend their rights and dignity.
She said although sexual and gender-based violence largely affected women and girls, evidence in gender equality work globally showed that men and boys were equally affected by harmful masculinities, which promoted the ideas of manhood against womanhood.
She tasked the champions to promote a society of integrity to safeguard equal opportunities for men and women, boys and girls, and other vulnerable groups.
Mr Eric Kwakye Darfour, Eastern Regional Minister, in his welcome address, said harmful cultural practices were violations of one’s fundamental rights and by ending it, men needed to take action by saying no to early child marriages and speaking against all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
He believed that men were valuable allies in the fight against violence against women and girls and gender inequalities, and commended the Gender Ministry for the bold step in galvanising male support to ensure an end to sexual and gender-based violence as well as other harmful practices.
The Regional Minister, citing recent events in the Savannah Region where a 90-year old woman was lynched, urged the participants to champion the campaign to protect and respect the rights of vulnerable groups in their communities to effect the needed change.
Mr Favour Quaynor, a representative of UNICEF, said to achieve transformation, growth and development, the male champions must make it a priority to socialise boys through actions in the homes instead of mere words, as it would help them to better understand gender equality.
He called on the male champions to develop a national framework and devise a standardised tool to guide men and boys on how to craft advocacy and sensitisation messages and strategies.
Nana Twumasi Danquah, a representative from the New Juaben Traditional Council, who chaired the conference, called on all, especially traditional leaders, being custodians of culture and tradition, to appreciate the need to stand up against harmful cultural practices that appeared to entrench gender inequality gaps.