Bhutan’s Female Bus Conductors Driving Out Abuse
In Bhutan, bus drivers and conductors may seem like unlikely changemakers. But when Bhutan’s queen, Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, voiced concern over the number of domestic violence cases reported during last summer’s COVID-19 lockdown, bus conductor Kelsang Tshomo was listening.
Ms. Tshomo, who had participated in a UN-sponsored training on preventing gender-based violence, says she previously was unaware that abuse against women is a human rights violation. She had grown up thinking gender-based violence was “normal.”
Now she and her coworkers are taking their advocacy to the streets. Conductors, mostly female, and drivers, all male, are briefed to identify issues like verbal abuse or inappropriate touching. Conductors confront passenger-perpetrators and give victims a helpline number to call. For serious cases, conductors contact protection services directly.
Harassment and abuse in public spaces is common in South Asia, data show, including public transport. To date, 25 bus drivers and conductors have been trained to interrupt gender-based harassment and education. They expect to add 20 more buses. Additionally, 47 taxi drivers have been taught to look for signs of abuse in passengers.
While response to her advocacy has largely been positive, older women with traditional notions of male superiority tell Ms. Tshomo to mind her own business. Those views don’t deter her. “Women supporting women is crucial to ensure a safe, equal and happy society…,” she believes. Buses may travel the same route every day, but attitudes like hers can take a community in a new direction.
Men and Boys Clubs, Parent Groups Support Young Women in Ghana
Like many countries, Ghana has stigmatized young women whom men have impregnated. Thanks to Men and Boys Clubs and the Parent Advocacy Movement (PAM), these females are getting a second chance. Rather than having to drop out of school and marry, the groups are advocating for the young women to continue their education.
James Twene, Ghana’s acting regional director for the Department of Gender, said Men and Boys Clubs, and PAMs, have been invaluable for many females in communities in the Bawku West, Nabdam, Bongo, Talensi, Kassena Nankana West and Builsa-South districts. All have high incidences of teenage pregnancy, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Since the introduction of the interventions—including family planning— some men now accompany their wives to the clinics to receive services, Mr. Twene noted.
The clubs’ membership stands at 720 men and boys; 500 have been trained in teenage pregnancy, child marriage, SGBV prevention, reproductive health issues, and parent-child communication, he said.
The clubs were formed, to introduce men and boys to these pressing issues, to discuss the impact of these problems on individuals, families and communities, and to develop plans to address them.
For more, go to www.gna.org.gh/1.19892564.
Revealing Men Podcast
A new podcast takes listeners behind the male curtain where men share insights into how many have been socialized to accept emotional and physical abuse and how that training teaches them to pass their abuse forward.
Revealing Men is hosted by Randy Flood, director of the Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan. Launched in October of 2019, episodes are designed to “explain, explore, and better understand men, their behaviors, their relationships, and their lives,” Flood says.
A psychotherapist and cofounder of the men’s center in 2000, Flood has run men’s groups for more than three decades. He is coauthor (with Charlie Donaldson) of the books, Stop Hurting the Woman You Love and Mascupathy.
The men interviewed identify how they experienced abuse and how a new self-awareness allowed them to fashion a new vision of masculinity where the cycle of abuse is unacceptable.
Recent episodes explored how counseling has changed men’s lives (a client from 20 years ago shares his journey); and how the roles of bully, bystander, and victim are perpetuated in male culture (a seasoned boys’ program facilitator describes how changing their inner dialogue about manhood accelerates their growth).
“How men act doesn’t always reflect what’s going on in their hearts and minds,” Flood believes. To hear the podcast, go to menscenter.org/podcast.
Young Men’s “Failure to Launch” Worrisome
Many young men’s mental health is fragile, in need of much greater attention. That’s the conclusion of researchers, policymakers and the general public following a review of statistics indicating elevated rates of multiple mental health facing young men. A report in Psychology Today said men account for more than 75 percent of people with substance use disorders such as alcohol or drug misuse. Onset typically occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood. In the US, young men ages 15 to 24 have suicide rates more than four times greater than young women.
An alarming number of young men experience difficult psychosocial circumstances that may be contributing to the elevated rates. Referred to as “failure to launch,” among the mounting evidence of their struggles are challenges finishing their education and entering the workforce en route to independent adulthood.
Those failing to launch are typically unemployed, live with their parents and out of the educational system. Consequently, such young men often lack the social capital that comes from working or being enrolled in school. Additional impediments may include lacking financial resources, which inhibits their ability to socialize with other youth.
Disrupting Toxic Masculinities Series
A South African organization whose mission is to disrupt cycles of trauma is offering a seven-part series this spring, “Stories in the Struggle to Disrupt Toxic Masculinities.”
Facilitators from R-Cubed (Restore, Reconnect, Rebuild), AKA “trauma disruptors,” will address toxic masculinity from a variety of angles and through multiple lenses, said writer-activist Steve Wineman, a guest facilitator from Massachusetts. Wineman, author of Power-Under: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change, and the novel The Therapy Journal, says he was invited to cofacilitate because of his work on trauma and masculinity, and on interconnections among different oppressions.
The series looks at toxic masculinity intergenerationally, including understanding gender struggles through a trauma lens. “Cycles of toxic masculinities” considers how masculinity is weaponized by patriarchy and reflects on issues of power, and intersections with race and class.
The series also tackles threat and the masculine response (including male aggression and fragility), followed by fundamentalism/ extremism as an answer to male crises—including terrorism, gangsterism and right-wing extremism.
The concluding sessions, “disrupting the cycle,” range from masculinities and revolutionary change to reclaiming empathy in masculine identity. The f inal session explores the role of spirituality, ritual and symbolism in disrupting cycles of toxic masculinities.
R-Cubed works “to create mental, emotional and relational shifts necessary for organizations, companies, communities and individuals to function at their very best,” according to their website. The series runs weekly from April 7 until May 19. r-cubed.co/
Halting 45’s Bias Against LGBTQ Community
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has agreed to a court order to stay the effective date of a discriminatory Trump-era rule that if it went into effect would have eliminated essential protections service providers need in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.
“We are thrilled to see the Biden-Harris administration taking immediate steps to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of the communities that HHS is charged with protecting,” said Currey Cook, Lambda Legal senior counsel and youth in out-of-home care project director. “If this Trump administration rule were ever to become law, our plaintiffs—youth and alumni in foster care and advocacy organizations dedicated to safety and equity for LGBTQ children and families, LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ seniors—would be harmed, along with other youth and families who would face potential denial of services and discrimination.”
The Biden administration agreed to postpone the rule’s effective date, acknowledging that the Trump-era policy “is under review” and agreed to advise the court on its progress. The court order postpones the effective date of the rule until August 2021.