As scores of countries participate in two weeks of awareness campaigns to combat violence against women, one group is honoring five men who have proven themselves dedicated to gender equality.
Vital Voices, an NGO dedicated to female leadership, recognized the five men in a ceremony in New York on Monday.
An estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, an alarming statistic that means men must be part of the solution, says Cindy Dyer, vice president for human rights at Vital Voices.
“The fact is the majority of men is non-violent, but that alone is not enough,” she said at the awards ceremony Monday. “Simply being nonviolent is not enough. We need men to demand nonviolence in everybody in their community.”
The men recognized with the “Voices of Solidarity” award were Gary Barker, the founder of Promundo, which enlists men and boys to be part of what he calls “the gender equality revolution”; Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussen, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Sadou Lemankreo, a police commissioner from Cameroon; John Prendergast, a longtime American human rights activist; and Thomas J. Wilson, CEO of Allstate and president of the Allstate Foundation, which has a campaign to prevent domestic violence.
Each has a unique perspective on preventing violence against women.
“We are here because of brave women stepping up and saying that we have to end violence against women, and we have to figure out the way to engage men,” Barker said at the ceremony Monday. That includes social and legal support for women, he said.
Prendergrast noted that countries undergoing conflict create the worst conditions for violence against women. “Sexual violence is the cheapest and the most cost-effective weapon, potentially, in the history of warfare,” he said.
“It must now end, and together we bind ourselves in this duty to make that true permanently,” Zeid said.
Wilson said that economics can be a powerful “weapon of choice” to empower women, including financial education.
The work to end violence against women in all forms requires continuous efforts from individuals, law enforcement and policymakers, participants said. But really what ordinary men can do is shift their cultural mindset, to condemn violence, and to defend equality.