Working with men is an approach that came as a result of critical investigations on a number of causes of gender based violence in communities with too much pointer towards men as perpetrators and violators of rights embedded with pre-historic states under traditions and cultural practices, traditionally men has been on top of every decisions making. For Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G) engaging men has been acknowledged as an important component of gender programming, as it is seen as widening the scope of its work to address GBV, by working with both men and women to challenge dominant masculinities
This approach is to change old practices but shakes innovations and new ways of work under the engaging men for gender justice. It’s also a reality that in order to achieve development, peace in families and households, we need to embrace gender equality through gender justice work that trickles down to improved well-being and economic prosperity, health and other development indicators, men and boys then needs to take full responsibilities because it’s going to lead to a transformative enterprise through breaking social norms that limits opportunities for women and girls.
GWED-G therefore being its own experts in the field of women empowerment have tested different and complimentarily approach to bring about change in the prevailing unjust society and Male Engage Initiatives – MEI has been identified. It’s one of the approaches to engage men and boys for bringing a wholesome change in the discourse of masculinity and alter the present destructive gender biased norms to compliment women’s rights’ movement.
Some of the key context in this project identified that perpetuate gender inequalities and women’s rights abuse was in line with northern Uganda having highly patriarchal society, the position of men in community as providers/breadwinners is challenged and changed completely, also the environment is a post conflict and efforts of development & Humanitarian actors. IDP situation saw men with limited skills, low income, and helplessness to deliver according to society expectations. Men started experiencing sense of inferiority, lost the traditional roles & failed to provide for the families. Women took additional roles as breadwinners on top of traditional roles. Women gained financial independence and started work in the public sphere because more women benefited from empowerment programs.
The programs is therefore designed along some theories of change, that works at three levels and looks into – If Men gain knowledge on gender socialization, power imbalance, skills to join their power in solidarity to confront issues of unequal gender norms that perpetrate violence, If there is a supportive environment that support men practicing positive masculinity and if Men and Women live in Gender Equitable relations at the Household and Community Level, then gender equality will be achieved.
Therefore working with men at three levels will contributes to greater change and reduces on violence.
- Men as agent of change: these are men who actually support women empowerment and can be engaged as change agents to influence social change for gender equality. They are involved as role models, peer educators and leaders to champion; Women’s participation in household and community decision making processes, promotes women’s access and control over land and productive asset. These leads to Prevention & ending GBV against women and girls, men and boys, Care giving and sharing of domestic work
- Men as partners to women; this is based on the fact that lasting empowerment of women require more serious and honest effort to appreciate and support change among men who are integral to women’s lives because; Women live in partnership and relations with men as husbands, other male family members and in their communities. Men have tremendous influence in women’s movements, behaviours and agency
- Men as clients; there is also need to recognise that men too suffer from GBV, although men suffering in silence raises a lot of concern, men suffer silently and are ‘expected’ to persevere and resolve issues without reporting, there is need to extend men’s access to PSS, VSLA groups, and other interventions that are accessed by women and girls who face GBV and other forms of violence.
In partnership with Independent Development Fund (IDF) Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G) has built a network of role model men (RMM) who work as agent of change and reaches out to fellow men in promoting male engage initiatives and gender equality. Now there are 150 RMM who are champion of gender equality reaching out to 10 households each, on each household visits they discuss issues of women’s empowerment and gender based violence to reduce on households violence for women and men of reproductive age. They also discuss how the family should become democratic and involves their families especially children in decision making processes, family planning and women health, this is an opportunity for them to work as agent of change, the role model men also conducts outreaches where they held male engaged dialogues and they challenge themselves why men are notably violent and how they can reduce on violent act perpetrated by men. In each of the male engaged dialogue, at least 30men attends the male dialogue each time it’s conducted.
A total of 201 men reached by RMM during outreach programs. However through household dialogues a total of 8381 people reached with 3190 male and 5191 female. From the work of RMM children’s welfare and well-being has improved as a result also improved food security at household since women and their husband can sit and dialogue on how best they can utilise food harvested for household consumptions and others for sales. Including safety and security, cases of GBV in those household has reduced and including levels of alcoholism consumptions by men. Bodily harm has reduced that were a result of battering by husband. Children from those households gained access to scholastics materials as parents now can value education and attend parents meetings in schools. In those families sanitations and hygiene has improved at home and for the men.
The motivation for working as a RMM: Most of the RMM demonstrated the fact that they were tired of their lifestyles and wanted to show that they can change, others wanted to gain respects. But some men were also selected because they were people of good character.
How these has changed their ways of life: RMM were reported to have started positive masculinity or behaviours including not conducting themselves like they used to do, especially not drinking Alcohol, no more fighting and quarrelling, stealing food products and selling them for personal money, Instead they started doing things they were not doing in their homes before e.g. sharing ideas with wife and involving her in planning, being honest on finances, caring more for the family and constructing fuel efficient stove for wife among others. For example one RMM from Paicho sub-county was able to rescue 5 young girls who were raped by one rapist and he made sure the perpetrator arrested.
The Wives of RMM: Most of them testified that their husbands now are clean and respected in front of their elders, stated that there was overwhelming visible new peace and joy in the family and no more stealing and selling of food stuffs in homes. RMM gained more trust from their wives, the wives were happier as there was reduced work load for them and they now had time to rest; the women were also happy about the reduced level of womanizing; meanwhile the men played tremendous roles in families. RMM had cleaner homes; there was increased respect, love, peace in homes and many more people started saving.
“Men during Harvest would sell all the produce stored at home from the garden and drink all the money”.
Women roles in GE and economic empowerment: Women’s economic empowerment brings benefits to the individual through potential increased control over resources and decision-making as well as to their families and wider society. However, guaranteeing the transformative potential of economic empowerment initiatives is jeopardised when programmes fail to take into account that men continue to dominate household decision-making. In addition, we might also reinforce norms that women are caregivers while men are uninterested or incapable. Additionally, even when women do more paid work outside their home, the burden of care work in the home often remains the same for women. It is thus important to address the gendered division of care work. To address this we need to acknowledge that social norms and institutions that shape men also influence perceptions of what it means to be men. Giving men the opportunity to develop new and positive masculine identities based on respect and shared responsibilities is key to challenging gender norms that ascribe men as decision-makers. This program has taken this into considerations through the male engaged initiatives.