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Ending Violence, Ending Hunger
At Bread for the World Institute, we look closely at the causes of hunger so that we can recommend effective responses. Some causes are apparent –- for example, poverty and armed conflict. Others may be less obvious but nonetheless important. One of the latter is gender-based violence.
All over the world, violence and the threat of violence limit women’s freedom of movement and economic opportunities. Whether a woman must leave her market kiosk early to avoid groups of men out for the evening, flee her home with only the clothes she’s wearing to escape domestic abuse, or pass up the chance for higher education because it would mean traveling alone to classes and risking assault or worse -- gender-based violence makes it harder for women to feed themselves and their children.
In December 2012, India made global headlines because of a brutal gang rape on a public bus, the resulting mass protests in New Delhi and other cities, and even more widespread demonstrations when the victim died days later. On the other hand, India is also the birthplace of the "Ring the Bell" campaign – a male-led effort, active for five years now, that encourages men to step forward to help end gender-based violence. “Ringing the bell” is a simple action that men are urged to take whenever they hear or witness violence against women: ring the doorbell. In other words, interrupt the assault -- on any pretext, however flimsy. Let the man know that other men in his community are willing to intervene to stop gender-based violence. The idea is basic, but it has profound implications. It seeks to "make what was once acceptable unacceptable."
Since 2008, the original Hindi-language campaign, Bell Bajao, has reached more than 130 million people in India via TV and radio ads that explain why gender-based violence cannot be tolerated and how to help stop it. The campaign points out: "For domestic violence to stop, men who are violent must be empowered to make different choices." Each year, “video buses” air short videos featuring true stories of men who took action based on Bell Bajao's message. The buses travel thousands of miles, reaching people village by village. The Bell Bajao campaign has been featured in the storylines of India's leading soap operas and included in national quiz shows – just two among many signs of rising public awareness.
Ring the Bell's core theme will sound familiar to Bread members: it's the power of one individual, committed to taking
action, to create change. Ring the Bell offers suggestions for actions, a variety of ways an individual can pledge to make a difference. For example: teach boys who look up to you that strong men
respect women; intervene to stop any abuse you hear of in your neighborhood and extended family; donate time or resources to a shelter for
rape survivors or battered wives.
On International Women’s Day 2013 (March 8), Ring the Bell became a global campaign. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is its inaugural Global Champion, while the Clinton Global Initiative is providing financial support. The goal: to get 1 million men to make 1 million promises to take action against gender-based violence by March 2014.
Here's one of the key reasons that broad social change through campaigns such as Ring the Bell must accompany better laws and stronger enforcement of those laws: Globally, the single strongest predictor of a man’s violence against a partner is having witnessed violence during childhood against his mother. (Source: U.N. Women). It's a cycle that must be interrupted one family, village, and town at a time.
Among the many benefits of reducing gender-based violence will be more food grown and more income earned by women -- simply because they can go to school, work, and raise their children in greater peace.
Ring the Bell is a project of Breakthrough TV. Banner above courtesy Breakthrough TV.
Michele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.
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