Guest blogger Malya Villard-Appolon is a MADRE partner and co-founder of KOFAVIV, an organization by and for survivors of sexual violence in Haiti. She is a 2012 CNN Hero. You can vote to make her CNN’s Hero of the Year here!
When KOFAVIV does our outreach in the camps, we know we must involve the men in our activities. While we realize that it is men who are committing rape and acts of violence against women, we decided that it’s important to avoid pushing them to the side as we fight to combat violence. They need to be part of the solution. So, we created activities and human rights training sessions to do with a group of men.
Who are these men? They are men whose mothers, sisters, cousins and close friends are rape survivors. They decided that the issue of combating violence against women is important. They got together, created a team, and participated in our training sessions. After completing our training sessions, the men are able to hold their own outreach and awareness sessions with other men who are living in the camps. Men are also necessary to be able to convey our message to other men and to change their mentality.
Now, many men agree to come and participate in our training sessions at the KOFAVIV Center. They have the opportunity to sit with other men—their peers—and talk. It’s so much easier for men to talk to each other, while they’re sitting together or watching a soccer match. They can say to each other: “No to violence, no to rape, violence is not good for our country.”
So far, this activity has brought good results. After the earthquake, I had lost my home. The women of KOFAVIV and I spent 6 months living in the Champ de Mars camp. There was so much violence. Before we started our activity with men in the camps, we used to find around 30 to 40 cases of violence against women per month. After implementing our outreach and awareness work with men, we were able to see very positive results. By involving men in the fight against violence against women, we saw success. In fact, since our activities with men in the Place Pétion, cases of violence against women in this camp have been almost completely eliminated.
Our goal is to expand our outreach and education activities with men in other camps and neighborhoods. I know that by working with men whose family members are rape survivors, we would be able copy the success we had in Place Pétion in other camps as well. We would be able to get results that are good for the country and good for everyone.