Association for Community Organization & Social Administration

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Global Members' Experiences

World Social Work Day

World Social Work Day is a great opportunity to promote the profession of social work. Please see this short message from Gary Bailey, President of IFSW (and NASW Past-President). The message speaks to building healthy sustainable communities and just living conditions and opprotunties. Click

Men's Work: Eliminating Violence Against Women

MensWork:  eliminating violence against women (MensWork) was formed in 2008 in Louisville, KY by a small grassroots group of men who were dedicated to forming a community-based organization striving to educate, engage and mobilize men and boys to end all forms of sexual and domestic violence.  We are the only community-based organization of our kind in the states of Kentucky and Indiana (or any of the surrounding states).  Our primary starting point is that sexual and domestic violence will stop when men stop doing it…and it is men’s work to get men to stop perpetrating violence.


We focus on the “Primary Prevention” (largely based on the framework of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but also including a human rights framework) of sexual and domestic violence.  As such, MensWork does not provide services to men and boys who have been either perpetrated or been victimized.  Rather, our focus is on the men and boys in our communities who oppose sexual and domestic violence and supporting them to become more active and verbal in their opposition.  Our other primary focus is addressing the social conditions (community values, social norms and organizational culture) that create an option for men to choose to perpetrate violence against women or girls.


While MensWork does provide education throughout the community, our primary strategies combine leadership development and community organizing.  We have developed a number of innovative initiatives, and have been invited to speak on our efforts throughout the U.S. as well as presenting on one of our programs at the 2009 Global Symposium on Engaging Men in Gender Equality held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


MensWork currently has 4 main programs in which most of our work focuses:  “Promoting Gender Respect”tm, and our Engaging Dad’s Initiative:


Promoting Gender Respect (PGR) is a youth leadership and community organizing project focused specifically on teenage men and how they can work collective in alliance with women and girls to prevent bullying, sexual harassment, or dating violence (there are currently these three versions).  We work from an “engaged bystander” perspective with these young men and work with them during the 10-week program to help them organize an event or project to raise awareness about, or take a stand against, bullying, sexual harassment or domestic violence.  One example include a group from a local YMCA program (focusing primarily on “at risk” youth).  During our program with them, they came up with and implemented a project to raise donations for the local battered women’s shelter.  Their efforts generated over 200 pounds of needed donations from other adolescents in the community.

The second aspect of PGR is to develop the capacity of adult mentors within the agency to promote youth leadership and model men acting as an “ally” for women and girls.

The third aspect is to do an organizational assessment and strategy plan in terms of the organizational culture and the degree to which it promotes youth leadership and creates a culture of gender respect.

Although still being developed and refined, PGR has been adopted by the Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence for use in its local programs, and has been piloted by the California Department of Health.


LIFTED focused on increasing the capacity of the faith community to respond to and prevent domestic and dating violence, and the social service/advocacy community to address the faith needs which are often a part of domestic violence.  We have organized the first ever inter-faith service on domestic violence as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as well as a manual for faith leaders and a “declaration” which we’re using as an outreach and organizing tool.


“Voice Your Opposition” is a community organizing and social marketing strategy to provide examples of men “voicing their opposition” to some form of sexual or domestic/dating violence.  We gather groups of men in “focus group” type settings where they decide the forms of violence against women they want to focus on.  They then create a concept, write the script, and film a short video modeling how they “voice their opposition”, as well as produce a brochure and poster/flyer.  This is a pilot program and in 2011 we received a Verizon Grant to expand this effort.


Our Engaging Dad’s Initiative focuses on engaging the father’s of adolescent men and women to prevent dating violence and promote healthy and respectful flirting and dating.  Utilizing educational workshops, weekend retreats and community organizing efforts, we help father’s of adolescents not only become better models for their own children, but also take an active stand in the community.  We organize an annual Father’s Day Rally for dad’s to “take a stand against dating violence and for gender respect”.


Our Understanding of Accountability


As a men’s organization focusing on engaging and mobilizing men to end violence against women, we are highly attuned to our need for us as individual men and as a men’s collective to clarify transparently to whom we are accountable and what we mean by being accountable.  We have created a “statement of accountability” which can be found on our website.  Briefly, we believe that we are firstly accountable to the women who are victimized by men’s violence.  Since we are limited in our ability to be directly accountable, we hold a high importance to being accountable to the women leadership of the key organizations in our communities that work with or advocate for women and men who victimized.  Towards that end, we created an “accountability board” of representative of these organizations who ensure that we firstly “do no harm” in the development and implementation of our programs, that we are doing our work in a way that is in keeping with good feminist organizing principles, and that our efforts and process are in keeping with the goals and efforts of the movement locally.


I'm an Joel Izlar, ACOSA member and second year MSW studying community empowerment and program development at the University of Georgia and have been involved in community social work in the Athens, Georgia area for some time.  Over the past few years, I've been co-directing an all-volunteer non-profit that is aiming to close the digital divide in Athens, Georgia called Free IT Athens. We recycle discarded computers, and give them to non-profits, and low-income individuals in exchange for volunteer service.  I've recently been speaking on the topic of digital justice, and if there is any opportunity to give a presentation at the next ACOSA meeting, I would be honored.  I'm including a link to our photo dump of pictures of us working with people and creating a more digitally just and connected Athens community.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Joyce Bialik - After Reading Half the Sky I Went to Africa

After Reading Half the Sky I Went to Africa

Joyce Bialik

Hunter College School of Social Work

Dee Gamble’s and Shinichi Murota’s discussion of Half the Sky at the 2010 APM has inspired my teaching and research. Written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this book describes the global oppression of impoverished women and their potential to help themselves and others in their situation -- with humanitarian support from abroad. In a class on social welfare policy where I discussed the book I was impressed by my students’ comments that we not engage with less developed countries on gender issues with an ethnocentric lens.  We in this country also have gender issues, and our study of inequalities in other countries should begin with an attempt to understand their culture and political economy.

Meetings in Ghana and Uganda: From there my involvement with global gender issues spilled over into my trip this winter to Ghana and Uganda. In those countries I met with NGO and government program leaders, meetings facilitated through my acquaintance with Margaret Snyder and my participation in a Uganda program called Teach and Tour Sojourners or TATS.  Snyder is the founding director of UNIFEM and has written several books about Africa, the last two based on field studies of rural and urban entrepreneurial women in Uganda and the programs that assist them. TATS is a program that invites international teachers for a week or more to teach in Uganda and to tour this interesting and beautiful country. Since my Uganda visit occurred at a time when schools were closed, TATS arranged for me to meet with Ugandans according to my academic interests.

The Women Leaders: In Uganda and Ghana I was repeatedly impressed by the women leaders I met and the programs they led. In describing their process in organizing communities of impoverished women, these leaders use many of the same methods that we do even if they refer to the methods by different names. Some of their practices are unique to them. One woman I interviewed is Adisa Lansah Yakubu, the executive director of Africa 2000 in Ghana. Africa 2000 Network was conceived in 1986 and managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 13 African countries including Ghana and Uganda.  It supports community-based projects aimed at environmental protection and sustainable development, and in Ghana it focuses now on the northern rural communities.

Rural Interventions in Ghana: Yakubu spoke animatedly about her decision to focus on the women. Initially the seed money she provided to families went to both parents in a household until she realized that the men took all of it. With the seed money and technical assistance the women received, they were able to earn their own money through the growth, production, and sale of shea butter, including in the global marketplace. Throughout the program it was important to listen to the women’s expression of their needs, said Yakubu. One such need was for a structure to house the women during the rainy season as they held their meetings or processed shea butter from the shea nut.  The program succeeded in obtaining sufficient funds to build a structure in each of six communities essentially the size of primary schools, some of them containing bathrooms.

Strengths Perspective: Yakubu’s interventions focused on the strengths she identified in the women, which she called asset based community development.  She said you look for whatever assets a community can offer, and you start from there. An example is the extent to which community members help one another. They are sensitive to the needier women in their community, and they take responsibility as a group to help them. She added that poor people have to help one another. They can’t do it alone. She teaches the communities to pool their assets and learn how to use them for continuous development. As Africa 2000 Network successfully markets the shea butter that is produced, the women begin to see money as they never had before. That, Yakubu said, is when they need to be instructed about how to avoid money shock.  To this end they are trained to save and manage their money. They also are trained to manage their relationships with spouses and others in the context of their new role as successful entrepreneurs. When I asked her about involving men in the project Ms. Yakubu mentioned that men enter the picture at the time the women, using their profits, begin to build a new home. The men have an interest in the home they will live in, and thus join these women in building it.

Changing Attitudes in Uganda: One of the women leaders I met with in Kampala, Uganda is Tina Musuya of the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP). She described a vulnerability for experiencing violence in the home that characterizes almost two thirds of the country’s women regardless of their education and socio-economic status. She added that the violence was reinforced by an attitude in which violence against women is an acceptable part of life, a norm that is part of the socialization of Ugandan women as well as men.


The main objective of Ms. Musuya’s demonstration program is to change the attitude of accepting violence against women to one in which community members are inspired to take action to prevent domestic violence. Intervention occurs with lay people as well as with police officers, health care providers, local councils, parish chiefs and other opinion leaders. Working for now in the country’s largest city, Kampala, the program enlists and trains 64 volunteer activists within a given community.  These activists help lead such activities as booklet clubs, street theatre, and domestic violence watch groups. They also work to build supportive environments in beauty salons and barbers shops. Twenty trained male activists work to engage men in preventing violence against women. Their activities include peer-to-peer discussions, outreach to men in leisure places, to carpenters, and to male music artists.  They also organize sporting events and couple seminars. In addition, the program sponsors a citizen of the year award for those who have shown exemplary behavior towards women’s rights.  As a demonstration program, the project currently is being evaluated for its effectiveness in changing attitudes about violence.


In describing her program, Musuya was both angry about the violence and hopeful about her program’s chances for success.  Like Yakubu she is quite animated, but she is also very intense. These women and others I met in both African countries have inspired me to inform my colleagues about their challenges and their exciting programs to address them. I also wish to acknowledge again the assistance of the TATS program in Uganda, which linked me with the leaders of eight other Ugandan programs. If you are interested in teaching and touring in Uganda have a look at TATS website (


Other Relevant Websites

Margaret Snyder -

UNIFEM (now part of UN Women) -

Africa 2000 Network -

Africa 2000 Network in Ghana -

Center for Domestic Violence Prevention and Raising Voices -