Living as a First Man Standing – Addressing Gender Based Violence Through the Church. 18/5/2016

Published by FAMILYIMPACT

At Family Impact one of our great privileges is to partner with other
organisations to deliver projects that benefit local communities and
churches in Africa. Often these projects involve taking resources that
were created in the ‘west’ and contextualising them so that they can be
used effectively in Sub-Saharan Africa. This might involve changing the
stories and examples to things that are more relatable or adjusting the
content to address different cultural norms or beliefs.

The most recent example of this has been a project addressing gender based violence with our partner from the UK, Restored.
Restored is a global Christian alliance that is working to address the
issue of violence against women. Particularly they are asking ‘where is the church, and where are the men when it comes to ending it?’ The
church has enormous influence and coverage in communities and this is
particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet we don’t really see the
church or men speaking out on the issue of violence against women. In
fact, as our current project highlighted, some church leaders have very
little awareness and understanding of the issue, and even if they do,
they are not equipped to help the church take the lead in addressing it.

At Family Impact we desire to see people experience the fullness of
life, freedom and wholeness that comes from being part of a strong
family, so the opportunity to help the church address gender based
violence is something we jumped at the chance to be involved in.

Restored and Family Impact have partnered to mobilise the church and
men to address this serious and pervasive issue with a pilot program in
Kenya and Zimbabwe. In the first phase, a group of pastors, church
leaders and Family Impact staff held a workshop in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to
contextualise the church pack produced by Restored in the UK for use
there. The result is the Living as First Man Standing training manual
for churches and church leaders in Sub Saharan Africa. Drawing on
material on relationships between men and women previously produced by
Family Impact, and the teaching and practical tips for churches in the
Restored training pack, the training seeks to highlight the issue of
gender based violence in our communities and churches, provide biblical
teaching on the topic and challenge and equip the church and men in
particular to speak out and address the issue.

The material was then trialled at two pilot trainings; one in
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and the other in Nairobi, Kenya. Pre and post
training questionnaires revealed that the training had a significant
impact on the church leaders and pastors who attended. For instance,
prior to the training there was an assumption that domestic abuse is
mainly physical, however this expanded post training to include many
other forms of abuse as being domestic abuse. Those who attended were
very keen to take the material back to their churches to train others as
well as to make changes to the way in which their church provides
support for those who are victims of domestic abuse. In Zimbabwe there
was even consideration of establishing a 24 hr counselling and conflict
resolution centre staffed by local pastors. While sparking plenty of
healthy debate and discussion, the material itself was very well
received and some good feedback from the trainers and participants will
allow improvements to be made before the final version is published.

Restored and Family Impact are now actively planning a broader roll
out of the Living as a First Man Standing training to churches and
church leaders in SSA.