16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
Interview with Senior Gender and Safeguarding Officer Ian Mwangi
Everyone has the right to live free from violence. However, many people around the world continue to face violence every day because of their gender. Gender-based violence can happen at schools, in workplaces, in homes, and in communities. Globally, 1 in 3 women have or will experience physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is a global campaign that aims to raise awareness on violence against women and girls. This year’s theme is UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls. The campaign calls on everyone to take action to end gender-based violence and to show support and solidarity with women’s movements.
This year, for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, we met with Ian Mwangi, Senior Gender and Safeguarding Officer at WUSC’s Kenya office to learn more about his work in this field, what led him to pursue a career in gender equality and social inclusion, and how he is supporting efforts to address gender-based violence. His interview is included below.
- Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ian Mwangi and I work as the Senior Gender and Safeguarding Officer for the DREEM and LEAP projects in Kenya. I have been at WUSC for a year and three months. In my previous role, I was the protection officer mandated in the coordination and implementation of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya for two and half years, and thus the eradication of all forms of abuse is something I hold close to my heart.
- Can you describe a typical day/week for you?
A typical week for me involves providing support to my team on matters of Gender, Social Inclusion, and Safeguarding. This often takes the form of assisting my team in ensuring that our activities incorporate a gender and inclusion lens and most importantly do not cause harm to staff or those that we seek to serve. For example, I support providing targeted training to ensure that the team is conversant on how to be deliberate in our inclusion efforts in line with WUSC’s Age, Gender, and Diversity Policy and Guidance and the Code of Conduct. Externally, as part of my involvement with the DREEM project, I support Mastercard Foundation partners in identifying gaps in their gender, inclusion, and safeguarding efforts and providing them with the necessary support and resources to strengthen their interventions from a strategy and policy standpoint. Given my crosscutting role, I work very closely with the MERL and Communications teams, especially in the documentation of project activities with a focus on case studies and success stories that help address issues surrounding violence against women and girls. Given my membership in relevant working groups such as the SGBV and protection working group in Kakuma and positive masculinity taskforce in WUSC, I also have the role of ensuring my colleagues are up to date on the existing referral pathways and service providers to enable them to refer any GBV cases they may come across.
- What led you to pursue a career in this field and what are some of the challenges in your role?
Pursuing a career in matters of gender, inclusion, and safeguarding was not an obvious choice. I would say I was drawn into it by a silent nudge towards wanting to be more direct in the way I help people and particularly women. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to work in some fragile and conflict-affected areas where I got to see first-hand the impact of GBV on women and girls, especially in their reproductive health and emotional well-being. I always seek to be a part of the solution in addressing deeply rooted gender stereotypes and biases. A big challenge I have always had is in explaining that gender is not only about women and addressing the perception that women have been “over-empowered” at the expense of men. However, this is addressed through being deliberate in aspects of male involvement and identifying champions who work towards changing perceptions in communities on these issues.
- Why is it important to address GBV in our work and how is WUSC working to address it?
GBV affects girls, boys, women, and men and is a violation of fundamental human rights. The safety and well-being of particularly young women and girls in all spaces are at the heart of our interventions. We work to do this by creating awareness among staff, communities we work with, and downstream partners on matters of GBV prevention and response. Moreover, for improved coordination and strengthening of the referral process, WUSC is actively involved in technical working groups which enable us to maintain the highest standards in ensuring that we mainstream protection in all our activities. We support interventions that seek to address power imbalance through models and strategies such as Power to Girls, which enable communities and particularly men to engage in conversations on the root cause and consequences of violence. We actively seek to identify champions as change agents within our interventions and work through these agents to disseminate key messages through mass media and social media platforms, and radio shows.
GBV has many consequences that have far-reaching impacts on not only those we seek to serve but those around them. Through holistic solutions, we actively seek to ensure that we mainstream protection into our interventions and work closely with partners who work along the lines of GBV prevention and response in tackling negative norms and providing timely and adequate assistance to survivors we come across respectively. Male engagement is also key and we work closely with community champions in shaping the perceptions of the community on addressing GBV at all levels. WUSC also actively works to contextualize our reporting and feedback mechanism in line with existing referral pathways in our areas of operation with a focus on creating linkages with the mandated protection agencies. Central to this is our commitment to the survivor-centred approach and guiding principles of safety, confidentiality, non-discrimination and respect.
- What does this year’s theme, UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls, mean to you?
This year’s theme for me highlights that we all have the power to bring the change that we want to see. Change starts with YOU! When we are able to bring our power and actions together (no matter how small we think it is), we will be able to create the GBV-free community that we hope to have. Activism plays a big role in pushing the agenda to both rights holders and duty bearers in ensuring that we all do not remain silent in the aftermath of GBV but instead raise our voices and SPEAK OUT!
“Let’s be brave! Let’s break the silence! Let’s call it out! Let’s Unite against Gender-Based Violence!”