By Pa Modou Faal
Stand By Her was created by women for men to be effective ally to women. Violence perpetuated by men against women is a serious issue that requires expert knowledge to tackle.
As a result of such acts of violence, Communities Inc and Nottinghamshire Women’s Aid co-developed the Stand By Her Initiative.
With a combination of years of expertise in the Bystander intervention training, community empowerment, and supporting women and girls experiencing violence, the two organisations successfully crafted the Stand By Her training programme.
Stand by Her is a unique program that shifts the focus from putting the whole responsibility on women to keep themselves safe, it targets the root cause of the problem which is men’s harmful attitudes and behaviours toward women.
The programme is aimed at making men allies to women than just standing by and look when women are in critical situations. It mainly seeks to create solution in addressing misogyny in our society.
“Stand by Her makes a difference. It provides practical ways for men to respond to harmful behaviour and begin their allyship journey. It allows men to send a strong message and change the societal perception of what is and isn’t acceptable.” – Communities Inc.
Stand By her is aimed at teaching men how to become allies to support women in the fight against misogyny and some sexist nasty behaviour of men. The programme is not aimed at perpetrators but men who really want to do something to be able to support women in their lives and the training gives them some tips and ideas on what they can do.
In light of awareness raising in the community, a training workshop was organised in Nottingham at the Marcus Garvey Centre where men from Nottingham and Reading were given the opportunity to participate in this laudable initiative.
Michael Henry who coordinated the training workshop said, “the programme is funded by Google which we took on nationally and trained over a thousand people across the country. The programme is independently evaluated, and the report has been very positive.”
“The StandByHer is based on a bystander intervention model we created some years ago and we have a programme called StahndByMe. Bystander Intervention means recognising a negative situation and responding in a way that can stop or de-escalate it. Hateful behaviour often happens in public places. So, there’s a good chance you’ll witness it when you’re out and about -whether it’s a passing comment or a confrontation, we all must challenge any sign of hate”, Mr Henry charged.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback from trainees, evaluators and in the communities where the programme is being administered. The report shows that people have increased their understand and are much more likely to intervene when they see women in compromising situations. It is a tried-and –tested model but we are always looking for ways to improve it and keep it up to date”, he said.
Mr Henry said they conduct an evaluation survey at the end of every training, and they do see a significant shift in the response of the participants showcasing their level of knowledge before and after the training.
Most of the times, in a scale of 1-5 he continued, participants will give a 2 before the training which often changes up to a number 5 after completing the training.
“It is a serious subject, and we try to break it down so that it would not overwhelm the participants because the videos that are played during the workshops are quite captivating and sometimes difficult to watch and we want to inspire people to do good things rather than make them feel guilty and bad, and just try to get the balance right”, he explained.
Mr Henry further said some men do not give much to such things, but it also depends on their upbringing and peer groups – who they hang around with, their life experiences; some people have a negative view of women, and people who have those views probably would not attend this kind of training. “This training is for men who know women get a bad deal of society but want to do more and want to support them during such difficult moments,” he concluded.
At the end of the training, I asked the participants what they came out with from the workshop, and this is what some of them said:
“The training was good, and I am satisfied with the information shared by the facilitators. I will have something very meaningful to take back to Reading whereby I can have honest conversation with men in my community about issues women go through in life and how men can intervene to avert unhealthy situations.”
“I was taught how to avoid violence against women, how to settle disputes between women and men and how to reassure a woman of my help in time of need. I’m also better equipped now to help settle family problems and misunderstandings between partners, family members and friends.”
“My initial perception of the training was how to deal with issues affecting women in the immediate family not knowing it is wider than that because it is about all women and what they go through in our houses, in the streets and our communities.”
“I came to understand that as men we should give women the confidence and support they need in our society rather than tormenting them. The training has given me skills to intervene against perpetrators of women and gender-based violence either through engaging them into dialogue or if necessary, inform the authorities.”
“We have the Men’s Group in Reading; Berkshire, and we meet the last Sunday of every month, and such platform would be a great place to discuss with my mates what I have learned from the training and share notes with them.”
“It was very educative and informative. It taught me lessons on how to relate with women., how to treat them and the amount of respect they deserve. The training served as a way forward because it has taught us issues regarding human rights, and everyone needs to be respected and treated with dignity.”
“The training also taught me how to be a better person in the community towards women and how I can step into a woman’s aid if the environment calls for it. It has given me better knowledge on how to avoid being abusive to a woman and how to avoid gender-based violence.”
It was very good and informative. I went in with no knowledge about it and not many expectations, but I came out learning a lot from the session. The key things I have learned are knowing more about empathy on the women side and seeing their perspective on how they are viewed in some men’s eyes. I have also learned some key tactics on how to intervene if something is about to happen to a woman.”
The training has broadened my understanding in key issues surrounding the perception of women amongst certain individuals, and my opinion is just getting away from this and go on to educate many people through the things I do, like podcasting, speaking to friends and family and other people. Getting an audience is important but know what to tell them especially current issues like violence against women, domestic violence, gender-based violence, misogyny, harassment etc.”
Chris – Nottingham Trent University:
“It was a less academic session but very intriguing because women’s lived experiences were shared and how difficulty their situations were and how much of a support could a man have done to avert such situations. The training has given me accurate knowledge of what to do when a woman is harassed at work or anywhere, who to contact and how to handle the situation in a less aggressive manner.”
We live in a society where 97% of young women have been sexually harassed. Men’s violence against women is widespread but still perceived as purely a women’s issue. It’s time to change the focus and narrative.