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White Ribbon Campaign at Alternative High School in Newport News, VA

By Cletus Davis

NEWPORT NEWS – Enterprise Academy is an alternative school for students who have been kicked out for some reason. This week, students are participating in a white ribbon campaign to fight violence against women.

During the campaign, men and young boys wear white ribbons as a personal statement to say they will never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

Ninth grader, Richard Liles, knows first-hand about abuse.

“I can testify from life. My mom, my aunts and my grandmother have all been victims of abuse. If I can break the chain of generational abuse, it will be better for me, my wife, and my kids.”

In addition to wearing the white ribbons, students will also make posters and a video. They even plan to raise money for Transitions Family Violence Services, an agency serving families on the Peninsula.

School psychologist Jeremy Burroughs is behind this campaign.

“I wanted to bring some awareness about what a respectable relationship looks like. I always put it in the context of how we all want to be respected and honored by our partners.”

Working with Men and Boys in South Africa during the FIFA World Cup

By Cletus Davis

The Red Card project by Sonke and Grassroot adapts a former Red Card campaign that was successfully used by AED in Mozambique to prevent the sexual exploitation and coercion of women. This campaign by Sonke and Grassroot will focus more specifically on the prevention of child sexual exploitation. The Red Card project focuses on the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the increased risk during this period, but also extends beyond this event and into the future.
The issues

Child sexual exploitation affects millions of girls and boys globally and is a growing problem in southern Africa. It is a violation of children’s rights that harms their physical and psychosocial wellbeing.

Child sexual exploitation in southern Africa may take many forms including:

* Transactional sex
* Alcohol and drug abuse linked with child abuse
* Child sex trafficking
* Child sex tourism
* Child prostitution
* Exposure of children to sexually explicit content and nudity
* Intergenerational sex (involving young people)
* Sex with a minor (under 16)
* Forced marriage
* Men in positions of authority exploiting their authority, such as teachers

Some of these forms of child sexual exploitation are so commonplace that many people accept them as “normal.” The Red Card campaign aims to ensure that child sexual exploitation receives the clarity and emphasis it deserves, while not excluding discussion of other forms of sexual exploitation, such as exploitative sexual relationships between older men and girls or young women.
The Red card Approach
The Red Card project will

1. Obtain new, original insights into themes and strategies around addressing sexual exploitation, through formative and evaluation research. This will be done through focus groups and in-depth interviews with young people, key NGOs working in this field, and government officials. The project will also identify a core group of young people to serve as an advisory group on the project.

2. Increase the capacity and willingness of at least 450 adults and children, across at least 30 local partner organizations, to act against sexual exploitation. The Red Card project will develop new training materials and training modules focusing on awareness and prevention of sexual exploitation. It will also train 30 to 50 partner organisations to implement the Red Card campaign in their own fields.

Men’s Health Issues Solved with Executive Director Minerson

By Cletus Davis

The following text is from White Ribbon Campaign Executive Director Todd Minerson’s introduction to our most recent newsletter, which can be read in full here.

It is always a pleasure to connect with you around this time of year.

Not only have things moved in to high gear with our education and prevention work across the country; we are on the “heels” of another amazingly successful Walk A Mile In Her Shoes Toronto 2010; we have a number of new and exciting initiatives and we are rapidly approaching the highlight of our annual campaign period (Nov 25 – Dec 6).

Someone recently framed our work with men and boys to end violence against women and girls like this, and it really stuck with me.

“You can’t solve a problem that you can’t even talk about”.

So much of our work is an effort to get men and boys talking about the problem of violence against women. Challenging them to see the connections between male privilege, men’s silence and violence against women; giving them the tools and inspiration to speak about something they likely have never spoken about before; getting to some of the root causes of why men don’t speak up or challenge violence against women – these are the nuts and bolts of our work.

My message today is not to focus on those details, but to share a phenomenon I witness regularly, and have been through personally.

Every time you speak up about violence against women – it gets a little bit easier.

I see this phenomenon in action when we are working with young people in the classroom. When we are training teachers how to address these issues. When I return to a community to do a speech, and find some of the men I spoke with months earlier are now volunteering at a women’s shelter. When I look out at a crowd of 700 men in women’s shoes, walking to end violence against women. When I am tying my skates in my own hockey dressing room, thinking back to my first days in this work almost five years ago, and I had the responsibility to speak up.

Every time a man has the strength to speak up it gets a little bit easier. Every time one man speaks up, there are other men within hearing range who may be saying “If he can say something, I can too.” Every time a young man or boy hears a man he respects speak up, that action pays it forward. Every time a woman hears a man speak up, she
might be saying “we can work together to make a change.”

Never underestimate the power of saying something, for only when we break the silence around violence against women, will we see the end of it.

Thank you all for the support of our work at the White Ribbon Campaign.

Until the violence stops,

Todd Minerson, Executive Director
White Ribbon Campaign

Reaching Out to Boys and Men in Indonesia

By Cletus Davis

To prevent gender-based violence, Rifka Annisa, a women’s crisis center in Yogyakarta, Indonesia , is reaching out to boys and men in the community through a series of activities.

“In Indonesia, working on issues related to men, masculinities and violence is relatively new,” according to Nur Hasyim, Coordinator of the Men’s Programme Unit for Rifka Annisa, “We wanted to reach out to boys and men, and start working with them on these issues. To do this, we’ve begun to develop different strategies– first, by creating spaces for boys and men to talk about these issues, and then, giving them something to do through events and activities.”

One of the “spaces” created by Rifka Annisa is the “Gentlemen’s Hotline,” a weekly live radio talk show where listeners can phone in or send an SMS to ask questions and have discussions around daily life and masculinities, gender and violence. Presented in a down-to-earth way, the talk show invites ordinary men – taxi drivers, students, men in gyms, singers and other men in the community – to be a guest on the show. The guests discuss what “being a man” means to them, while Rifka Annisa helps to frame or analyze the issues in the context of masculinity issues, as callers join in the discussion.

Rifka Annisa has also held various events targeting boys and men. A rally on “men opposed to violence against women (VAW)” was held, in which public figures – religious leaders, artists, the local governor, and mayor (mostly men) – were invited to support the rally. The public figures gave statements on their support against VAW, and their photos and statements were made into posters for the rally.

Another activity aimed at young men was a futsal (soccer) competition to show that “real boys care about others.” The rules of the futsal match were altered to demonstrate anti-violent behavior – for example, if team members had a fight they apologized to each other, demonstrating anti-violence and equality. The winning teams were judged not only by which had the most goals, but also on their demonstration of anti-violent behavior and fair play.

An English debate competition, a popular activity with Indonesian students, also targeted youth. Teams were given topics related to gender for a debate. Students enthusiastically studied various aspects of the topics in preparation for the debate.

Another popular event was the “Pram March,” in which men wearing aprons, pushing prams and donning umbrellas with positive messages written on them took part in a march through the streets of Yogyakarta to raise awareness on antiviolence and respect for women. The march aimed to help build a new image of men – men who are valued for their supportive and egalitarian behavior toward their families.

Amazing White Ribbon Campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific …. and Antarctica

By Cletus Davis

First a quick story.  In early December, I was getting on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane to Auckland and there was a group who looked like they were from some South Pacific island.  Men and women: tall and striking with flowers in their hair.   On the plane, one of the men was sitting in front of me and we started chatting: I asked if they were coming from a wedding (since they were festively dressed) and he said, no, from the Miss South Pacific Beauty pageant in Papua New Guinea.  They were from the Cook Islands and one of the women in their group – who was impossible to miss – had won the pageant.  But he talked about these women not by their looks but by their professions – the winner is an engineer whose acceptance speech was about women’s voices in promoting change– and I said to him it was good to hear a man referring to these women’s accomplishments in that way.  He looked at me, quizzically.  I said I worked as an educator to promote gender equality and end violence against women. His response to that?  He said, “We just celebrated White Ribbon Day at the beauty pageant” (at which point I told him of my involvement in the WRC and he told me of the annual campaign in the Cook Islands.)

The White Ribbon Campaigns down under are among the most remarkable in the world. It was my pleasure to see the campaigns in Australia and New Zealand first hand at the end of November and early December during a two-week speaking tour.  Here are a few highlights of the amazing work they’re doing.

Australian Highlights:

In Australia, November 25, the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women is known by all as White Ribbon Day.  (In popularizing the day several years ago, two women from the UN women’s organization, Libby Lloyd and Rosemary Calder wanted to stress the importance of men’s involvement and action.)   It’s run by two autonomous organizations the White Ribbon Foundation and, for the state of Queensland, CEO Challenge.   Here are some highlights from this year:

Aussie Men Should Swear. They developed a great campaign around the tag line “Aussie Men Should Swear.”  The kicker is: “I swear not to commit, excuse, or remain silent about violence against women.  This is my oath.”  Their wonderful ad features well-known sports figures, media types, and politicians.

Swearing ceremonies.  Some events concluded with men coming up to the front, face the women in the group and taking the WRC oath.  I took part in this at the Victoria state parliament and another north in Queensland. It’s incredibly moving.

In the federal parliament the PM and leader of the opposition led a ceremony.

Municipalities carry out vibrant campaigns – and seem to be outdoing each other.  Each year they produce different T-shirts.
Some produce large, magnetic decals with the ribbon and a slogan that go on the side of garbage trucks, police cars and municipal vehicles for a week or two.   Banners are hung across bridges, on buildings and they hold public events.

Ambassadors: They have over 1400 ambassadors. Some of these are high profile: athletes, musicians – including Nicole Kidman’s husband & country music singer Keith Urban — political leaders (including the former PM), media types, police officers, business and union leaders, etc.) but others who are simply known or hard at work in their community.

One ambassador, for example, has done this over the past year:  John Minz is CEO of a cooperative mortgage society—Heritage Building Society.
He visited all of their branches over the past year to talk about DV.  He added the WR oath to the signature on all his emails.  He changed company policy to give women who experience DV up to 20 days off.  He raised money.  And through a partnership with a big gardening/building centre chain, developed a White Ribbon camellia which is being sold across the country. . .Another ambassador, the CEO of Queensland Rail, organized ribbon distribution in all the train stations in his state and had ads placed in all their trains.

Sports teams are very active, both rugby and Aussie rules football.  (At one of the events, one of the other speakers was a former “footie” star and now the young coach of one of the teams.  He said: “We demand the utmost courage from our men on the field, but demand very little from them when it comes to their personal relationships and speaking out against violence against women.”)

There are many receptions, concerts, walks, lunches, breakfasts, cocktail parties, golf tournaments, public distribution of
ribbons, and tons of media coverage.

The Maritime Union got involved — to see a great picture of some Australian seamen in Australia, visit my blog at

For more on the WRC in Australia: visit for the state of Queensland:

New Zealand Highlights

Here, too, November 25 is referred to as White Ribbon Day.  A semi-autonomous government organizational, the NZ Families Commission, coordinates the campaign in partnership with many non-governmental organizations.  As in Australia, there is a huge public presence and an ambassador’s programme.    Here are only a few highlights:

White Ribbon motorcycle ride:  Until I met some of the guys first hand, I
didn’t understand why this was so incredible. You’re in a small town.  You hear the roar of Harley-Davidsons and in stream a long row of bikers, clad in leather, shaved heads or hair flying all over the place.  This might strike fear for some, but the mayor is there to greet them for they’ve arrived to talk to men and boys about speaking out against violence against women.  A large number of the guys are Maori, the indigenous people of NZ.  Some are ex-gang members.  One group is the Super Maori Fullahs.  Another is led by current or retired soldiers.

One of the great things about the campaign is its community outreach.  When I was driving across the north island, every community big and small had pages of coverage in their local papers.  The white ribbon symbol is on the masthead of many local and national papers.   All this is facilitated through an outreach effort with local non-governmental and governmental organizations – to help them develop the tools for successful work with the media.