“Achieving gender equality and the elimination of violence against women and girls is simply an impossible goal without changing the lives of youths and men, throughout the world,” said Jimmie Briggs, and advocate for women’s rights, at a discussion on prevention of violence against women and girls organized by the UN Human Rights Office. “For too long the absence of men and boys, as well as the missing component of youth ingenuity and passion, has been an impediment to lasting progress.”
Award-winning journalist, author and lecturer, Briggs founded the Man Up campaign, a global initiative to engage young people in the fight against violence against women and girls through music and sport. “Harnessing the universal power of music, sport and technology, Man Up provides innovative training, resources and support to young people,” Briggs says.
The campaign, launched in 2010, works to build a network of young advocates and defenders, linking their efforts to community based and mainstream organizations, entertainment and sports communities, non-profits organisations and corporations to fight violence against women and girls in their own countries.
In Ghana, for example, they are helping girls to raise their self-esteem while empowering them to take on leadership roles; in Cameroon, they have developed sensitization campaigns on violence against women; in Paraguay they have published a graphic novel to raise awareness of the issue.
Briggs, who speaks regularly at middle and high schools in the United States, calls on young men to stand up and take action. “I, and Man Up, want to transform their thinking and behaviour, so that they work with women and support them to achieve their full potential and inherent power, safely and equitably,” he says. “Through Man Up, we are providing the space for individual development. We promote capacity and sustainability.”
In order to capture their attention and imagination, Man Up uses the language and iconography of youth culture. “Young people aren't necessarily reading the Op-Ed pages of the world's illustrious columnists on violence against women,” Briggs says. “They are watching videos and online games and they emulate and look up to athletes and musicians.”
There have been many women, in Briggs’ life, who have touched him and shaped his future. He recounts his time working as a reporter and covering the consequences of gun violence in the United States. The women he met in an area of Brooklyn in New York, were enduring the worst economic and security conditions. Finally, their mothers, decided to stand up and be heard. “They showed me the difference between being a victim and a survivor by going into the urban streets to challenge the gangbangers and drug dealers,” says Briggs.
Last but not least, on the future of his 10-year old daughter. “Sincerely, I want a world free of violence and oppression directed towards women and girls. A lofty goal to be sure, but I can only believe if we try to reach that place of being, the lives of many women around the world will be transformed. The journey is trying.”
9 January 2012