US educator to speak out against gender-based abuse
A Belfast conference is set to hear a call to encourage male leaders to speak out against all forms of gender-based abuse and violence.
US-based educator Dr Jackson Katz will be the keynote speaker at a gathering in the Long Gallery in Stormont tomorrow organised by the Executive Office.
It will be the final part of a two-day series of engagements which includes events with key representatives from sports organisations and the education sector to look at their role in helping to promote a positive attitude towards women and girls.
Earlier this year a survey presented by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency found that more than 90% of women believe Northern Ireland has a problem with men’s violence against women and girls.
While the Assembly remains unable to function due to a political disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol, work continues to inform a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.
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It is aimed to have a draft framework for an Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy by the end of 2022.
Dr Katz, a pioneer of the Bystander Approach to prevention, who has worked extensively with the NFL, and other professional sports leagues as well as all branches of the US military, will address the event tomorrow.
He will also address events in Dublin later this week.
In an interview with the PA news agency, he explained the approach as encouraging leaders to speak out to change society’s attitudes.
Dr Katz said he has been involved in activism since he was a 19-year-old university student in the early 1980s. “Men’s violence against women is an enormous problem, and there was and is an obvious deficit of men’s leadership on this topic … as a young guy I was pretty confident and I was a very successful athlete, so I was not intimidated or worried that other men would ridicule me when I spoke out,” he said.
“When you have men assaulting and harassing women, it’s not about their individual pathology, they are individual actors who are acting out much broader social forces, and so how do you change those social forces – that became my life’s work.”
Dr Katz started the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) programme at the North Eastern University in Boston.
It initially trained university male student athletes to speak out.
He said it became the biggest programme of its kind in university sport and then in professional sport in the US, before moving into the US military.