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WITNESS: A masculinity project for 2022 International Men Day

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Fifty men from across Ghana’s Greater Accra and Takoradi in the Western Region have shared, revealed and highlighted what violence they had witnessed by men towards women, and how what they witnessed shaped and impacted them as men.

The findings from these moving exchanges are for WITNESS, a masculinity project for 2022’s International Men Day, a global annual event celebrated in 70 countries around the world.  

According to The Armah Institute of Emotional Justice (The AIEJ), the brain behind this project, “With WITNESS, we asked each man the same set of specific, focused questions about what  violence they saw, their age when they witnessed that violence, who intervened, why they did  not intervene, and how what they witnessed shaped their ideas of masculinity, how they saw  other men, how it impacted them, and how they think it impacted women.” 

The project is part of The AIEJ’s annual focus on emotional justice and masculinity where we create sacred space  to have open, vulnerable conversations about masculinity, power, and violence to explore, shape and transform masculinity narratives in Ghana.

“This masculinity project’s aim is not to pathologize, but to change narratives, shift lens, ignite  discussion, and center men’s focus on the actions, learnings and silence of men – all of which  contribute to escalating levels of violence against women,” the statement added.

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Here is one example of what one WITNESS shared:- 

“I remember in my junior high school days I used to bully and beat my female classmates  because I thought that beating them will make them respect me.” Witness 1. 

Starting on Tuesday November 15th, the social media platforms of Emotional Justice and The  AIEJ will reveal quotes, graphics and highlights from WITNESS, culminating in the full findings  of both numbers and narrative online on November 19th.  

Esther Armah, CEO, The Armah Institute of Emotional Justice said in a statement that “We live in a world where  men are taught that power and masculinity are about dominion and control – especially over  women.

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Emotional Justice works to build a masculinity of empathy and accountability, to raise  emotional awareness and redefine men’s relationship with power. One way we are doing that is  by sharing what men witness, and how what they witnessed shaped their ideas of masculinity,  and who men are, how they act and when they use their voice, and when they use their silence.” 

Theresa Adezewa Aryettey, Project Assistant from The AIEJ who interviewed many of the men and said This project has made me appreciate the need to amplify and have in-depth discourse on gender  violence with men. Even as adults, many men are battling with things they witnessed from their  childhood, these things are still taking a real toll on them.” 

The organization’s previous  projects include 2021’s ‘SEX & THE AFRICAN MAN’ which featured Ghanaian artist Wanlov and Economist and Broadcaster, Patrick Stephenson; 2019’s #IamUNLEARNING video featuring a  group of Ghanaian men activists and educators, and in partnership with White Ribbon Ghana. 

Each project used creative and interactive ways to give voice to the emotional worlds of African  men; and to explore and exchange issues of masculinity , power, love, loss and violence.

The  AIEJ’s annual project works to affirm a masculinity of honesty, empathy and accountability, one  that wrestles with power in service of progress, an end to gender violence, a healing and a fuller  humanity.  

According to AIEJ, The interviews for the latest project took place over the course of almost eight months. Each interview was conducted orally, then transcribed, and The AEJ engaged with Viz 4 Gender to present the  findings in visual graphics to create easily digestible information. There were 50 interviews.  They are anonymous with each man being named and described as WITNESS 1 to WITNESSE  50. Anonymity was to protect identity given the stories being shared, and honor the vulnerability  that some of the men felt.

WITNESS is led by The AIEJ and in partnership with Life Relief Foundation based in Takoradi.

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