The United Nations refugee agency and its aid partners in Montenegro have enlisted popular local sports coaches to take part in a new public awareness campaign aimed at fathers that is part of broader worldwide efforts to stem sexual and physical violence against women.
Under the campaign, fathers and father figures – such as uncles, older brothers, teachers and mentors – in the small European country are being encouraged to lead by example and teach their sons that all forms of violence against women are wrong.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has co-developed and funded the project as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, launched the campaign yesterday in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.
About 10,000 posters have been distributed in schools, health-care centres and social welfare centres, public service announcements (PSAs) are being aired for free on television and radio, billboards are carrying key messages and some players in prominent sports in Montenegro are wearing campaign T-shirts before matches.
One of the participants is Igor Kolakovic, a top volleyball coach in Montenegro and a father of two boys, and he called on his countrymen “to teach your sons that being a real man means to respect and esteem women, and that being strong does not mean being a bully. You are their role model. They will listen to you. The power of change is in our hands.”
Violence against women is a serious issue in Montenegro, where a recent report found that one in two women is a victim of verbal abuse and one in every three is attacked physically.
UNHCR representative Serge Ducasse described the campaign, set up with the assistance of other UN agencies, the Montenegrin Government and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and drawing on material from the United States-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, as a trailblazer.
“Never before has a campaign in Montenegro called so directly upon men to challenge the deeply rooted belief in their superiority and their right to control the lives of their women,” said Mr. Ducasse. “Fathers have to speak out and teach their sons that violence is never an expression of strength, but one of cowardice.”