Crossroads is engaging men in ending the cycle of domestic violence

An innovative partnership with John Howard Society Toronto and Crossroads International is breaking new ground in fight against gender-based violence in West Africa. Through series of international volunteer exchanges Crossroads local partners are engaging men in new ways to end the cycle of abuse.

Crossroads International’s Access to Justice program has made real gains in helping women understand their legal rights but, traditional law and cultural practices remain a dominant force.  Many women are forced to remain with their abusers due to social, economic, or cultural imperatives. 

The need to recognize local realities and develop creative approaches that increase safety for women is paramount. In Toronto, the John Howard Society of Toronto’s Domestic Violence Program works with men convicted of abuse to help them understand their behaviour, to be accountable, and accept responsibility. The program offers techniques to help men understand and manage their anger and improve communication and ultimately change their behaviour.

“It is intuitive to provide services to women who are victims of abuse, but to end the cycle of violence we have to change belief systems among men, who are sometimes themselves victims of childhood abuse,” says Crossroads International volunteer and John Howard Society of Toronto’s, Team Leader for the Domestic Violence program Whitney Wilson.  “By working closely with these terrific organizations in Ghana and Togo, we aim to change men’s views about domestic violence and teach them to communicate to their partners in a way that does not include violence. Education has to be effective, comprehensive, and allow sufficient time to allow individuals to understand and change their belief systems. From my perspective as a facilitator in Canada, we have also learned much about understanding and adapting to diverse cultural backgrounds. This is why I believe these international partnerships can make such great progress.

Crossroads International first recruited volunteers from the John Howard Society of Toronto in 2014, and leveraged their unique expertise in support of our local partners in Ghana (Women in Law and Development in Africa) and Togo (Groupe de réflexion et d’action, Femme, Démocratie et Développement / Centre de Recherche, d’Information et de Formation pour la Femme).

Elements of the program have been adapted to engage men through accountability, education and rehabilitation, and ultimately, as allies in increasing the safety and security for women in Ghana and Togo. John Howard Society staff members are currently on their third mandate to Africa in the past three years.  In total, six staff members will have shared advice, expertise, and resources from the program with local social workers, police officers, and government officials in Ghana and Togo.

Crossroads International Executive Director Carine Guidicelli says it is strategic alliances such as the partnership with John Howard Society Toronto that makes international cooperation so relevant today.   “It is exactly this type of sharing of knowledge and exchange of cultural experience that builds the capacity of our partner organizations in the Global South, and enriches the lives and work of individuals and organizations in Canada addressing similar issues. Together we are advancing the rights and security of women around the world.”


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: