There is a movement afoot to engage boys and men in the work of ending violence against women, and a new program at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre (BNC) is the first of its kind in Canada to receive funding for this kind of work.
The newly renamed B.R.A.V.E. program—Brothers Resisting All Violence Everyday—hopes to question unhealthy versions of masculinity, and build new leaders and role models in the community.
Why work with boys? While this is the first in Canada, B.R.A.V.E. builds on the success of previous programs.
“It’s been done in the [U.S.] and has been proven to be extremely useful in reducing sexual assaults; in reducing all forms of violence, we’re hoping that it will have the same effects here,” says Jodie Layne, project coordinator for B.R.A.V.E.
While many boys and men want to play a role, and be active in ending violence against women, they may not know who to ask or know if they should.
B.R.A.V.E. programming officially starts on Oct. 7, and will work with 15 youths (between the ages of 15 and 25) for the next 18 months. Along with the program co-ordinator, two male-identified staff members will lead the majority of the programming.
“It’s really important for the boys to have male role models who can model behaviors, who can look like they do, who have firsthand experience,” says Layne.
The program is also working with other role models in the community, such as cultural leaders from newcomer and indigenous communities. These partnerships will help make the program meaningful in a cultural way, and include teachings from beyond the BNC.
The University of Winnipeg’s basketball team, the Wesmen, are on board.
“Basketball is huge in West Broadway,” says Layne.
In a community assessment, when asked who they looked up to, many of the youths chose basketball players. The program will incorporate physical activity—such as basketball workshops—to engage in a way that’s nuanced as meaningful, and model a variety of ways to display healthy masculinity in sport.
And what exactly is this “healthy masculinity” that the program looks to foster? This is something that, with the help of the facilitators, the youth are going to figure out.
“We don’t want to create new rigid gender norms or expectations for the boys; we want to open it up for them to define it for themselves.”
The program will work on this through weekly discussion nights as well as activities.
“[B.R.A.V.E. will use] activities to strengthen boys’ bonds to each other, to be able to open up and talk about those things that we see as masculine, that we don’t see as masculine, that we see as traditionally feminine.”
The B.R.A.V.E boys can expect to engage in a variety of activities. In addition to basketball, they will take in plays at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, visit the corn maze, go to cooking classes, and try boxing. They will also be talking about how to engage with others outside the program, if they see behaviours or attitudes that could contribute to violence.
“We know that the quickest way to stop violence is with the problematic attitude that it stems from, and with bystander intervention,” says Layne.
The program will also talk to the boys about how to cope with less healthy versions of masculinity that they see in their home and community, and how they can work to change those realities.
Near the end of the program, the boys will create something of their choosing—a video, skit, or curriculum for a school—and use it to share what they’ve learned and spread the message. They will also be attending block parties and other events designed to engage the community with the program.
Above all, the boys themselves will shape the program. Layne believes that every person is the expert on their own experience.
“Everyone’s experience is so varied; we can’t just say, ‘this is the way to have healthy masculinity and be a healthy male.’”
Check out www.thebnc.ca for more information on B.R.A.V.E.