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Male champions join the struggle for gender equality, empowering men to stop family violence

RAROTONGA, 25 OCTOBER 2013 (RADIO AUSTRALIA) --- Fighting for gender equality isn't just women's work.

Meet Paroa Arokapiti, a male champion for gender equality in Cook Islands.

Paroa Arokapiti comes from the outer island of Mangaia in Cook Islands, home to around 600 people and a 45 minute flight from the capital of Rarotonga. He is the Internal Affairs Officer, and for just over a year he has also been the Cook Islands' official male champion of women

He took the position to help further the views of women in leadership, a passion he traces back to the influence of his mother.

โ€œWhen I was a small boy I believe that the woman is good in leadership,โ€ Arokapiti told Radio Australia.

โ€œI remembered all the things that my mother taught me and all the things that I witnessed her doing with us as children and within our family, and I believe that women would be good as politicians or in local government.โ€

Arokapiti is currently attending the 12th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women, where there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of governments taking leadership in pushing gender equality. He argues that gender equality needs to begin at the family level, when children are growing up.

โ€œIf the mama can look after the kids inside the home, why can't she look after the island?โ€ he asked.

โ€œWe need the gender balance to work together as families. We are married to our husbands. We are married to our wives. We have children. That is very beautiful. Why can't we marry men and women into leadership for the benefit of the island and the Cook Islands?โ€ he said.

Meanwhile, the target is โ€œ1,000 Strong Men Against Family Violenceโ€ by the end of 2013

โ€œIt may be ambitious,โ€ admits Eddie Aila, a behaviour change consultant and motivational speaker from Papua New Guinea, but his enthusiasm is infectious.

He has recently launched a series of workshops, run by men for men, where participants can explore the roots of domestic violence and find out what they can do to break the cycle of entrenched negative behaviours.

โ€œThere are a lot of empowerment programs for women, funded by AusAid, NGO's, the churches,โ€ explains Eddie Aila, โ€œBut no one was really doing work with the men.โ€

While these awareness programs for women are valuable they do address the aftermath of family violence, says Aila who wants to tackle the issue before it arises.

The goal of his men-only workshops is to empower men, the main perpetrators, to recognize the triggers and to give them tools to stop violent patterns.

He says loss of cultural values, poor communication skills, past traumas combined with the daily pressure of cost of living and lack of opportunities contribute to negative behaviours which lead to family violence.

His awareness workshops offer an environment where men can open up and share their stories. They are attracting a growing number of men from all walks of life. The next one will be held in Waigani on 03 November

Additional Information

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Source: PACNEWS
When: 04/11/2013

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