“What does it mean to love someone?” Omar Woodard, Executive Director of The Green Light Fund and leader of the Men Can Steering Committee, answers his own question: “not hurting them is crucial.”
Omar grew up in North Philadelphia with a lot of positive role models, starting with his parents. When they were together, there was no question that they loved each other. He then attended Girard College, a boarding school for gifted students coming from families with limited resources. Inspired by founder Steven Girard’s aphorism, “my deeds must be my life,” Omar set on a course from an early age to take action and make a difference in his community. Omar went on to attend George Washington University to complete first a BA in Economics, then a Master’s in Public Administration.
It was at GW that Omar first confronted the disturbing truth of intimate partner violence (IPV). He dated three women over the course of his six years at GW, and he was horrified to find out that each of them had experienced abuse in previous relationships. Not ever having been exposed to the pervasiveness of IPV, Omar could not understand why it was happening, but he knew that it certainly was not their fault. He began to educate himself. Driven by his desire to make positive change through action, he hoped that someday the women in his life would no longer have to face these dangers.
Omar now sees the roots and scope of intimate partner violence: “There are unconscious actions that men have learned from how they were raised, what they saw when they were raised. It was a truism, ‘if he hits the girl, he likes her.’ How destructive is that? We are taught this at an early age.” Our society unfortunately looks away and even encourages violence against women.
Omar sees the MEN CAN Campaign as an opportunity for men to work together and eradicate this behavior once and for all. According to him, men don’t talk about this issue, and when they do it feels awkward. It’s a taboo topic, too private to speak aloud. However, “the burden should not be on the women to avoid abuse. The burden should be on men not to abuse.” MEN CAN draws attention to how many men care, and opens space for more conversations. There are men who already believe in the vision and mission of MEN CAN who just need to be asked to join the effort, and use their voice to take action for the things they already believe in.