Collective action and SGBV

The programme highlighted the significant role of collective action in the prevention and response to SGBV. In South Africa organisational partnerships between CSOs working on gender justice and sexual minority rights provided space for activists to learn from each other on different forms of gendered discrimination and embed that learning in their work.

The case studies also highlighted the value of collaborations across individuals, groups and institutions. Experiences in India and South Africa suggest that the collective can provide a safe and supportive haven for individuals to keep engaged. Relationships for engaging with men and boys need to be identified, and can, where appropriate, include collaboration with traditional and religious leaders as gatekeepers, as well as the police as revealed in the Kenya case study. This can open up previously closed spaces at the community level to discuss SGBV issues with men.

Strategic alliances, partnerships and networks across sectors, particularly with women’s organisations, are critical, but there are key tensions between women’s movements and work with men that must be understood and addressed. This includes feminist concerns about the exclusion of women’s rights, moving away from the ‘men as protectors’ approach and take seriously concerns of scarcity of resources.

There are other challenges to building cross-movement or inter-sectoral alliances including underlying rivalries and limited spaces to build trust and understanding between movements. In Kenya, it was felt that there is insufficient collaboration between organisations within the SGBV field and calls were made for more innovative thinking in gender justice movements, including linking with groups working with sexual minorities.

It is also important to break down the binaries on which many SGBV interventions and policies are established - addressing it as violence against women and within intimate heterosexual relationships. In Uganda, the importance of solidarities around principles of equity and inclusion are highlighted by the experience of isolation by male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. These survivor groups are increasingly engaging with their female partners and other support organisations serving the needs of refugees under an equal human rights framing. This also steers away from the narrow framing that presents victimhood as essentially female and thus women as essentially vulnerable rather than having agency.

Collective action through larger cross-movement alliances provides a platform to change SGBV outcomes over time through mobilisation to address the underlying structural dynamics of violence. It also enables interventions to work at multiple levels, with citizens and institutions and with diverse stakeholders across the community, including cultural, religious and political leaders. This can lead to change in the wider system and opens up opportunities to engage a broader range of relevant men in ending SGBV.