White Ribbon: Taking Action Around the World to End Violence Against Women – Part 5, Africa

December 10, 2013 Michael Kaufman

The fifth of a series with White Ribbon stories & links from around the world. Scroll down or click for: 1: Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, Part 2: The Americas,  Part 3: Europe, Part 4: Asia, Middle East & Caucusas.

And check out The Guardian article I co-wrote with Gary Barker: “We Must Enlist Men and Boys in the Fight to End Violence Against Women

Because White Ribbon is a decentralized network with thousands of different organizations and institutions involved, it’s impossible to track down most WR activities in the world. What is below is only a small sample. I hope you’ll add your own stories by sending me an email or adding links in the comments section.

White Ribbon’s messages:

  • Although most men don’t use violence in our relationships, all men have a responsibility to helping make it end. Why? Because our silence becomes a form of tacit consent. White Ribbon works to end men’s silence.
  • We know that the violence stems from social inequality between women and men. The violence won’t end until women enjoy full equality in the law, within our religions, in our workplaces, and in our families.
  • We also know that men’s violence stems from the ways we raise boys to be men and the impossible expectations of manhood. If we want to raise boys to be good men who won’t ever use violence, then a model of caring, non-violent masculinity must start in the home. We must stop raising our sons to fear showing feelings, to fear vulnerability, to feel they must always be in control.
  • We recognize the need to go beyond awareness-raising campaigns. We push for better laws, police training, new policies in workplaces, courses for new parents, and school-based programs.

White Ribbon works like this:

  • It is a decentralized campaign. We believe that people know best in their own countries and communities how to reach the men and boys around them.
  • It’s international. Over the years, it’s spread to 70 or 80 countries.
  • In some countries there is an actual WR organization. In most, it’s a campaign run by other organizations or a government office or simply a group of volunteers in a school, workplace, community, or place of worship.
  • It works in partnership with women’s organizations and urges men to listen to women’s voices and concerns.
  • It focuses on positive messages. This is not about collective guilt. This is about working for healthy and loving relationships, and positive models of parenting.


Cape Verde: As it many countries, Laco Branco (White Ribbon) has many different activities and initiatives. One, to get public attention for the issue, was a mountain climb to the Pico d’Antonia with over 150 participants.

Kenya: Coexist is one of the organizations that uses the White Ribbon symbol in its work through Kenya.  Its work has focused on ending sexual violence, child marriage and FGM, promoting safe dating and doing media training. One of our brother organizations, Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) holds a ‘Travelling Man’ conference every year as part of 16 Days of Action to educate men on preventing violence against women,

Nambia White Ribbon Campaign has an ongoing organization since 2000, starting off with a national training conference and rally in front of parliament to support a proposed law that for the first time made it illegal for a man to rape his wife.  It carries out ongoing training sessions for boys and men. It has Facebook pages here and here.

Nigeria: There has only been sporadic use of the white ribbon over the years, but a large, multi-organization initiative will be starting up over the next year.

Rwanda: Our brother organizations Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, Rwanda MenEngage Network, and Promundo are doing terrific work to end the cycle of violence–including working to heal the ongoing legacy of the genocide.  They do education work, training, run support services, and research, including this excellent study of Masculinity and Gender Based violence in Rwanda. They also carry out work in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

South Africa: The white ribbon has been used for many years as a symbol (for men and women) during the 16 Days of Activism when white ribbons are visible on politicians, media figures, and citizens in South Africa. Years ago, Nelson Mandela led a white ribbon march. This year, the Government of the Western Cape has asked citizens to wear white ribbons for the entirety of the 16 Days. My friends and colleagues at our brother organization, Sonke Gender Justice, have an extremely wide range of activities and initiatives focused on ending men’s violence against women.  Here is short and terrific TV interview with Dean Peacock, the Executive Director of Sonke.


Tunisia: The only news I received was of the lovely white ribbon stamp commemorating the fight to end violence against women.

Morocco & Mozambique: There has been use of the white ribbon symbol, but I have no up-to-date information.

Prepared by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite & Michael Kaufman