‘Because I am a man’

Published 20 November 2019 in:

Swedish ambassador Sofia Calltorp together with some of the men included in the campaign.

16 days, 16 men, 16 ways to express masculinity.
By involving men in its gender equality work, the Swedish Embassy in Harare created visibility for and engaged an obvious, but often overlooked, target group for Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.

In the ‘Because I am a man’ campaign, the Swedish Embassy in Harare worked with 16 local male celebrities to send a targeted message to Zimbabwe’s male population about stopping various types of sex discrimination.

“The situation in Zimbabwe with regard to gender-based violence is very depressing. Despite some progress for gender equality, Zimbabwe, like many other countries, is still characterised by a strong patriarchal structure where many girls and women are not treated with respect. For example, the assault of minors is a serious problem,” says Martin Buch Larsen of the Swedish Embassy.

The inspiration for the ‘Because I am a man’ campaign came from a UN Women campaign in the Middle East which involved famous men from the region standing up for women’s rights. In Zimbabwe, the Swedish Embassy was already working closely with several UN bodies and SRHR organisations and therefore contacted them to initiate cooperation on the campaign.

Martin Buch Larsen explains that the idea behind the campaign was for influential men – via their professions and social positions – to step up as positive role models and inspire boys and men to refrain from all forms of violence against women.

“We wanted to show that manliness and masculinity are not set in stone and can be expressed in many different ways,” he says.

‘Because I am a Man’ was carefully planned to contribute to the global grassroots campaign, ‘16 Days against Gender-Based Violence’, which takes place annually between International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November and Human Rights Day on 10 December. The Embassy therefore chose to involve 16 men, one for each day of the global campaign. The 16 men who fronted the campaign were carefully chosen.

“Together with our UN and NGO partners, we identified influential and progressive male celebrities who were prepared to engage actively in the gender equality debate. None of the men were allowed to represent political or religious groups. It was also important to us that the men reflected Zimbabwe’s demographic profile in terms of age, ethnicity, language and disabilities,” explains Martin Buch Larsen.

The campaign was rolled out both in physical spaces, with billboards and posters along the Embassy’s long external walls, and in traditional and social media. Opinion articles were written by the Embassy, the UN partners and one of the 16 men. Several of the men also participated in radio and TV programmes together with representatives of the Embassy, the UN and NGO partners.

Examples from the campaign: