Meeting men where they are: using sports and music to talk about gender-based violence

Leonardo Green demonstrates his football prowess during drills with coaches at a recent sports activity. Leonardo is a participant in the UP Unity & Peace programme coordinated by Fight for Peace.
March 17, 2022

KINGSTON, Jamaica - “It’s vital to get men involved in the conversation about gender-based violence (GBV),” says Jayson Downer, president of Men of God Against Violence and Abuse (MoGAVA). MoGAVA is a faith-based organization that aims to mobilize men and fathers to play their role in society.

Mark Cole, Programme Coordinator with sports-based organization Fight for Peace, agrees. 

“As unfortunate as it is, the fact is that men are mainly the perpetrators [of GBV]. For us as a gender to become part of the solution, we also need to become part of the conversation.”

"For us as a gender to become part of the solution, we also need to become part of the conversation.” - Mark Cole, Fight for Peace

Both MoGAVA and Fight for Peace use their work with young men to spread awareness of and to help reduce violence against women and girls.

MoGAVA recently hosted an event called ‘Bands and Conversations’, which used drumming as a way to engage adolescent youth. The drumming session was followed by a workshop that featured discussions on unhealthy masculinity and the impact of gender-based violence.

“I attended the GBV workshop and it was stunning to find out the percentage of violence against women," shared Romeo, one attendee. "It’s alarmingly high, too high... I think there should be more done and if I can do something about it, I most definitely will." 

Jiovan Halstead and Jayson Downer of MOGAVA give the Spotlight Initiative a thumbs up after one of their events.

MoGAVA has continued to engage men in spaces where they might be more comfortable opening up and participating in conversations on what can be a challenging subject.

In addition to music, they’ve built events around cars. ‘Cars and Conversations’ used a modified Toyota Probox, a popular model on Jamaican roads, as a conversation starter.

“We used these methods to reach men where they are," explains Mr. Downer. "The events were well supported and it showed that men need to hear from other men about why they are perpetrators and from those who have benefitted from interventions.

"Men see that another man hasn’t taken that negative action, and then we look at where the abuse of women comes from and find a solution."

Fight for Peace takes a similar route using sports – in particular boxing and taekwondo – to reach both male and female participants. Sports coaches double as role models to help keep participants motivated and engaged.

Sociologist Nashan Miller addresses participants at one of MOGAVA's events on GBV awareness.  Photo:Spotlight Initiative, Jamaica/MOGAVA

“We use sports to introduce ourselves and to get young people involved," explains Mr. Cole. "Sport helps our participants, including males, to practise discipline, increase their self-esteem and manage their aggression. Under Spotlight, our coaches benefit from GBV-awareness training and they then share that with young people."

"It’s useful information. The training session helped us understand [GBV] and how we can overcome it," says Taekwondo coach Damany Gayle. "I think we need to give our young people constant reminders, and we do it throughout the sessions by playing a game or [talking with] the boys and the girls. We take a holistic approach to what’s right and wrong and what should be done differently.”


Coach Imran Hall from the Mixed Martial Arts Federation of Jamaica leads participants from the UP Unity & Peace programme in sports drills coordinated by Fight for Peace. Photo: Spotlight Initiative, Jamaica/MOGAVA

Going beyond sports, other Fight for Peace activities include engaging families through the Parenting Partners of the Caribbean (PPC) Family Focus Curriculum. This is being provided to Denham Town and Trench Town residents who are helping launch their own behaviour change campaigns.

“If it takes a village to raise a child,” says Mr. Cole, a proud father of two, “then to tackle something as complex as GBV, it takes everyone in that village. Whether a victim, bystander or perpetrator, we can all play a role in tackling it.”

Fight for Peace and MOGAVA funding is provided by UNICEF under the Spotlight Initiative, a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Spotlight Initiative is working alongside the Government of Jamaica to address gender-based violence, especially violence against women and girls.


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