Living as a First Man Standing – addressing Gender Based Violence through the church

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.

LAFMS

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.

To find out more or support this project, email Family Impact.