African men, are you listening?

Violence against women is the single biggest threat to peace.

And November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) marked the beginning of 16 days of activism for ending gender-based violence so I am writing this post to highlight and to express frustration with the (at best) lack of interest from African men when it comes to this topic.

In Nigeria, where I’m from, it is believed that about 50% of women have been beaten by a partner. Maternal death rates are the second highest in the world, genital cutting is widespread, widows are mentally and physically abused, acid bathing affects an increasing number of women across all ages and rape is used as a weapon especially in the conflict ridden Delta region. In Zambia, two political leaders were recently found guilty of beating their wives, they claimed that they did it out of ‘love’. Generally speaking, Africa’s nations rank amongst the lowest on the gender equality index.

With such facts to hand, I find the silence on the topic by African men remarkable. Last week for example, I was at TedXEuston, which was a fantastic event – no doubt about that. However, it struck and disturbs me that out of the fifteen brilliantly delivered discourses on the present status and the future of Africa, not a single one was committed to one of the continent’s most imminent problems, gender based violence.

How far does it have to go before this goes on the agenda?

That said, a growing number of men are starting to say enough is enough, they too want out of a patriarchal structure that blocks the advancement of Africans as a unified group. Groups such as Engaging Men and this and black male feminists such as Kopano Ratele,  Michael Anthony Neal, Kevin Powell, Mphutlane wa Bofelo and Michael Awkward as well as historical icons like W.E.B DuBois and Thomas Sankara feel like a bucket of water on the dry desert which is ‘male activism against gender violence’.

This is not a dig, it’s a plea that we start to at the very least acknowledge how extremely far it has gone.

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  • Diggame

    Big ups for this piece! We definitely need to find the fortitude to respect our queens on all levels

    • MsAfropolitan

      @Diggame ~ Gratitude

  • MBA

    I am glad you highlighted this day, had no idea about it. And yes Zambia is a nation where men say very stupid things about why they beat their wives and I have read many an article and been so ashamed and annoyed that these ignorant men are given voice and the rest of us suffer from this representation.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Sigh. The examples are endless, across the continent we find so many similar stories.
      I feel it’s time the ‘good’ guys started taking a stand against this, because you know that saying about how ‘silence gives consent’, or something along those lines.
      Women can campaign limitlessly but unless those men that oppose gender based violence make their voices heard I fear we will never see an end to it

  • Vusi Sindane

    Hi there all.

    I would like to open by expressing my support towards non-violence and non-abuse against women and children. Having said, I would like to think of this as an issue that is intricately embroided into our cultural fabric.

    If we spend our time plucking the embroidery, we may also that the fabric cannot be completely healed. There would be holes and tears where the embroidery used to be.

    Some things cannot be fixed by removing a cause. Let us rather concern ourselves with exploring alternative outlets for this anger and violence.

    Very few people have the will to break a cycle; be it good or bad. However, more people are willing to take an alternative route; if only one existed…

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Vusi, thanks for your comment, it’s great to hear an opinion from the wide group this post is addressing.
      I don’t think that gender based violence is in the embroidery of our cultural fabric and where it is I think we need to pluck it until the fabric tears.
      I think that tradition and culture is fluid, and that change is an important part of human evolution. The embroidery is therefore in the journey rather than in the history.Do you get what I mean?
      I could not agree more when you say that we should concern ourselves with the exploration of alternatives, and this is why I wrote this post because we need for men to also be involved in that exploration and make their voices heard, otherwise it becomes a ‘women’s issue’ when really it’s something that cripples us all.

      • Vusi Sindane

        Thanx for your comments, what I meant with regards to the embroidery was….

        I think we all have it in our minds that African cultures (and just cultures broadly) have no intention to harm. Violence against women and children has become a sort of habit that taints the cultural fabric.

        If we pluck until the fabric tears, then we lose the essence of who we are. This is true because that is exactly what colonialism did.

        Like I suggested, what we should do is explore alternative means for people to exhaust their violent energies…

        msAfro, here’s a suggestion: Please dedicate a post to exploring solutions and alternatives to violence. Perhaps an interview with someone who has walked this path could also bring some insight.

    • Nii

      “I would like to think of this as an issue that is intricately embroided into our cultural fabric” Not entirely sure about that Vusi – I’m more inclined to think that most cultures including ours abhor violence against women. The weaker ones amongst us for obvious reasons resort to violence to sove problems.

      MsAfropolitan good topic by the way

      • MsAfropolitan

        Thanks Nii, and for the thoughts regarding this. I share your sentiment

  • Jide Alakija

    WOW! This got me thinking. I have to admit, I’ve never really given it some thought and I think most “men” fall into the same category as me. Our awareness is lacking on the issue. I wonder what can be done to increase this awareness.

    Thanks for raising the point. Glad you enjoyed TEDx.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Jide, first of all your photography presentation @ TED was mind-blowing, well done!

      Thanks for the comment, it was much appreciated. The most important thing is that we all are aware and spread that awareness on, from this we can all continue to condemn acts that are really crippling our continent either through support of campaigns or word of mouth.

  • Nigerian Drama Queen

    The Maputo Protocol shows that African women are finally beginning to speak up about gender based violence and discrimination. Hopefully, states will begin to make these documents living and breathing instruments… and hopefully, we African women will begin to ‘air our dirty laundry in public.’ The more we talk about it…the more change comes.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hey Queen. The Maputo Protocol is like the bible when it comes to this issue. It’s very positive that it has gained some clout in the AU now.

  • Vickii

    Thanks for highlighting this! I for one never stopped to think about violence against women in Africa specifically and yet the statistic that more than half of women in Nigeria have been beaten by a partner did not surprise me. This is a bit of a wake up call so thanks again. You’re very right; I hope violence against women is taken seriously by our leaders and working on eradicating it seen as crucial to the Africa of the future.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the comment, it’s hard to believe these things because for some reason we think our nations are not guilty of demonstrating such shocking figures. What shocked me is the report that shows how gender based violence is the largest threat to world peace. In the case of Africa, I believe that as long as this problem persists our development will be limited. With half of the population crippled by GBV and the effects of it we cannot create the change necessary to grow.

  • @clementyeung

    Sad statistics…

    Great idea to write a blog post about this – no doubt it’s raised awareness for many.

    My father was violent to my mother just once and she said she stood up to him by threatening to take the children and leave. After that, it never happened again.

    I love my father – he was brought up in a very violent and traumatic environment. I think that there’s still a lot of that fear and anger inside of him but he’s calmed down in his age. No doubt his willingness to confront his issues has been consistent with his ability to let things go.

    I think it all boils down to – why the need to beat another person, regardless of whether they are male or female, young or old? And then how quickly and effectively can those “issues” be addressed? How willing is the person to confront their inner-most demons?

    Thanks for the thoughts Ms Afropolitan :)

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Clement, I’m grateful for the honest comment.

      In fact I’m very touched particularly by the comments I received on this post.

      Your comment brings to light the fact that men are also affected by violence towards women, and why it’s not a women’s issue alone. It is psychologically damaging to succumb to inner demons, and more importantly it is a great challenge to battle them, and you are blessed to have a father who has done just that.

  • beeladonna

    Well, in addition to making men aware of this tragic issue,
    I feel women need to be taught how to speak out and seek help when faced with this sort of situation.

    I know for a fact in Nigeria when a woman is faced with domestic violence and seeks help from her family she is sent back to her husband either tagged as having done something wrong to deserve it or what ever stupendous reason they can conjure up to turn the blame on the woman or to secure her financially … “after all she cant earn a living if she isn’t married (ugh)” the <- mentality.

    I understand women sometimes provoke men in many ways BUT whatever the case my be it is extremely wrong and a barbaric action!! …

    I feel Nigerian men being egocentric and stubborn,
    will find it hard digesting this, in fact they will dismiss it and probably mentally abuse you in the process.

    I feel Nigerian men are power drunk, they really think the world belongs to them, only them and that just makes me sick!!

    Very few women have the courage to stand up for themselves in this sort of situation and more.

    Unless this mentality is scrapped and uprooted I fear it will take a while before this issue is solved.

    This is where propaganda comes in.

    The media can intervene and produce sensible films that show women the way to go about these things, and to show the men how civilised and REAL men behave. Instead we absorb dominating, oppressive, degrading, helpless films that keep enslaving us to this wild life style.

    (I singled out Nigeria because I have observed these things there, I don't know what goes on in other countries in Africa so …)

    And for goodness sake! Nigeria needs proper hospitals that know what they are doing and that actually care about the patients and free health care is needed there!!!

    And someone needs to educate these people about genital mutilation for goodness sake!!!!!!
    Culture is a serious crippling factor in Nigeria.
    Culture fear!!!
    It baffles me how people cannot take time out to think for themselves …
    How they enjoy living in backwardness or worse how they are extremely oblivious of their backwardness …

    Cultural backwardness and the fear of moving forward from it I feel is one of our major problems.
    We suffer from the fear of the unknown too much when staying in our comfort zone is what is causing more harm …

    I think i've said too much but not enough …

    Change happens one step at a time … and I believe we will eventually get there.


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  • joshua bee alafia

    I’m really glad you sited Thomas Sankara as an African Feminist… he was all about womens’ empowerment. I recently made a short film to support a panel called Brothers Against Sexual Violence in the Sex Crimes Against Black Girls art exhibit in brooklyn.
    Like folks have said above, change happens one step at a time… Remember, the renaissance is here, and we are able to make choices free from our conditioning as we live in more embodied awareness…. UHURU!

  • bhargav

    african culture and heritage is full of colors… dun blame it..
    the only thing africa needs is eual treatment by the whole globe, education, eradication of poverty which in either ways frustrates a human and makes him / at times her to notorious…

    am very late in commenting but i felt , so voiced..

    hey MINNA, hope you ok and cheers for all the good work you been doing for AFRICA,… i simply love this continent..