Patrick Watt, chief executive officer for Christian Aid.

Patrick Watt, chief executive officer for Christian Aid.

Gender-based violence is a continuing tragic reality at all levels and in all countries. How is Christian Aid trying to address this violence? Where do you hope to make a difference? 

Watt: Christian Aid seeks to address both the causes and consequences of gender-based violence, through our programmes and advocacy.

Firstly, we aim to get upstream of the problem, by working with communities to challenge narratives and norms, especially in religious contexts, that are used to justify mens dominance over women.

Secondly, we support the psychosocial recovery of survivors of gender-based violence, and the ability of survivors to get redress for crimes. We integrate this work both into our community-level peace-building programmes, and our humanitarian response.

We hope to make a difference not just through our programmes, but also aim to bring about wider societal change, by shifting attitudes, behaviours, laws, and policies.

As the wider ecumenical movement also tries to overcome gender-based violence, including through Thursdays in Black, what is one key area we should strengthen to be more effective? And potentially, what holds us back from being more effective in overcoming gender-based violence?

Watt: Were often less effective than we should be because we end up delivering projects, rather than pursuing genuine strategies for change.

And we are often stymied by working alone, rather than in coalitions. Gender-based violence is a societal issue, that can only be tackled through broad-based movements for equality and justice. This is the area I believe we most urgently need to strengthen.

I think we are also held back by the mixed messages that often come out of the Christian churches. The ecumenical movement needs to be unambiguous about saying, in its words and deeds, that gender inequality is totally unacceptable and contrary to religious teaching and practice.

What does it mean for you personally to be a Thursdays in Black Ambassador?

Watt: Being a Thursdays in Black ambassador is an opportunity for me to pledge to take action on this agenda, in my role as Christian Aid chief executive, and ask to be held accountable for that promise.

Having seen first-hand the effects of gender-based violence, both within my friendship circle, and in the course of my career, this is an agenda to which I feel personally committed.