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The Coexist Initiative was founded in October 2002 and then officially launched in 2005 upon registration as a non-profit coalition. The Coexist Initiative focuses on organizations, which work with men and boys with specific commitments to ending all forms of violence against women and girls in Kenya. A small organization with 9 staff, 10 volunteers and 5 interns, they make a big impact with over 15,000 members across Kenya. The coalition or synergy, truly sees the integral role of men and boys in ending VAW and seeks to engage them in activities through home-grown, participatory and holistic interventions.

Their thematic interventions focus on research, building competences, awareness raising and information provision.

 

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Why men and boys?

The Coexist Initiative chooses to carry out their work focused specifically on men and boys as because they feel the need to break down damaging patriarchal norms that perpetuate the negative and harmful behaviours and norms that govern masculinity. They believe that men need to be part of this and that men themselves need to take the lead on these issues and become positive role models for younger men in order to break the cycle.

The Coexist Organization urges that, “men can substantially impart their traditions and beliefs onto younger generations yet most the information disseminated over the years enhances disparity and vulnerability. Traditional leaders have the authority needed to decrease the acceptance of gender based violence, and their voices are particularly important when it comes to reaching out to boys and men.”

The organization seeks to challenge the narrow ‘rules of manhood’ put forth by a patriarchal society and promote a culture of equality where men support and appreciate femininity and women’s role, supporting their important work. They truly believe men are key agents in making society more equitable and ending all forms of gender-based violence.

Coexist focuses on raising awareness of the dangers associated with sexual/gender based violence. They do this through several strategies including capacity building, advocacy, peer education, media programming, tools development, edu- entertainment and community forums. They seek to target, empower and raise the capacities of men and boys across the country, in effort to change the dominant consciousness which promotes harmful and limiting norms and also to challenge a system of activism which largely excludes boys from the equation. Yes, men and boys are part of the problem, but they need to be active agents in finding a solution as well!

 

 

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Key Challenges:

The Coexist Initiative tells us that a key challenge is that much of the work in Kenya which focuses on gender-based violence excludes men and boys. Further, this issue and norm that bas been set largely excludes organizations which wish to focus on these issues which results in low funding for male-led and male focused organizations. Coexist Initiative wants to work alongside women’s organizations and raise the importance on engaging men and boys as well has having men and boy specific organizations. They seek to have strong partnerships and work in synergy to end GBV in Kenya.

Another key area of concern for the organization is dealing with the sensitivity of issues which are closely intertwined with matters of religion. Mr. Wanjala explains that, “In numerous religions, certain man-made practices performed in the name of religion malign accepted norms of women’s human rights. The customary practices and some aspects of tradition are often the cause of violence against women. These include female genital mutilation, foot binding, male preference, early marriages, virginity tests, dowry deaths, and female infanticide among others.”

The Coexist Initiative, envisions living in a “country in which men and women, girls and boys, rich and poor, sick and healthy, urban and rural, are equal partners in the decision making process and in creating sustainable development aimed at bettering the quality of life.” Will you join them?

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Here is how to get in touch:

Website: http://www.coexistkenya.com/

LinkedIn: Wafula Wanjala

Skype: coexist.initiative

Twiter: @Coexistorg

Facebook: coexist

Blog: wanjalawafula.wordpress.com

Support: http://www.givengain.com/cause/4727/

Pay pal http://bit.ly/1ks3rqx

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