Men take stand against violence – in heels
It was nothing close to the usual walks or runs hosted to champion causes or to raise funds for charity.
In five-inch heels and wobbly wedges, more than 50 men hobbled about while making symbolic strides around the Ring Road of The University of the West Indies, Mona, in a mark of solidarity with women decrying rape, sexual assault, and other gender-based violence.
The march, dubbed ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’, was spearheaded by Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and The UWI’s Institute of Gender and Development Studies.
Ellis, an actor, stand-up comic, and lecturer at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, said he first participated in the international walk in Toronto, Canada, four years ago and found it fulfilling.
The three main goals of the march were to raise awareness, generate funding to support initiatives aimed at helping women who are victims, and to drive dialogue about gender-based violence, he said.
“To the men who are walking and those who are watching, let’s not make this an empty stunt. It’s funny to see men stumbling in heels, but it should not just be a stunt,” Ellis told The Gleaner.
“It should be an important, symbolic beginning of men saying, ‘Let’s walk the walk and talk the talk. How can we, as men, help to change the narrative that women should not live in fear?” he asked the men.
SENDING A MESSAGE
Charles Hyatt Jr, son of the late, celebrated Jamaican actor, sported four-inch stilettos, loaned to him by writer and performer Joan Andrea Hutchinson, with a pair of striped socks to boot!
“It is important that we send the message that we are totally and utterly against violence, period, but especially violence against women. Sexual assault and domestic violence are horrific, and there should be no incidence of that,” Hyatt Jr lamented.
He went on to explain that he knew several women who had been raped by trusted individuals.
“One of the worst things a person can do is rape someone – it’s horrible and it is a lifelong problem,” the 47-year-old said, citing post-traumatic stress disorder as one of the “real” consequences that women and other victims endure. “Nobody deserves to go through that.”
Actor Glen ‘Titus’ Campbell said that he put his best foot forward to promote a movement that did not get enough attention. He wore borrowed shoes from a theatre colleague and walked in support of victims “close to home and not so close”.
The march was a continuation of the activities of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which was recognised on Monday, November 25.
One in every five Jamaican women reported being sexually abused before reaching 18 years old, according to the Women’s Health Survey 2016, and women in universities are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault.
Deputy principal of The UWI, Mona, Professor Ian Boxill, who spoke on behalf of the principal, said the university had come a far way in developing a gender policy but acknowledged that more needed to be done.
“We must act on the words that are contained in these policies. We must stand by enacting our institutional and national practices so that there are clear consequences for the violation of human rights and clear avenues for redress which are accessible to victims,” Boxill said.
He continued: “One too many of our women and girls are being violated and victimised ... . The number of reported cases is alarming, but what is even more frightening is that many cases go unreported.”