How ‘men engage’ initiative has reduced Gender Violence

David Nkundibiza and his wife Clementine Nyirantegerejimana at a meeting at Kigali Convention Center recently. courtesy.

David Nkundibiza, a resident of Burera District in Northern Province was recently photographed with a baby strapped on his back while in a meeting with his wife at the Kigali Convention Centre.

It was a meeting that brought together agents of change, a group of couples who had had a series of domestic fights and were counseled under a project known as Indashyikirwa implemented by various anti Gender Based Violence (GBV) activists, namely, Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), Rwanda Women Network and Care International.

Around 11am when the baby started to feel uncomfortable in the meeting room,  Nkundibiza took him out for fresh air.

He put the baby on his back, something akin to taboo for a man in Rwanda. People in the conference hall were surprised, because seeing a man carrying a baby, while the wife was attending the meeting was extraordinary.

However, Nkundibiza was not the type of man who believed in strapping a baby on his back until three years ago.

“I was raised being told that a man doesn’t do domestic work,” he says.

His friends, especially those older than him always tell him that he was bewitched by his wife but gradually the community is seeing the fruits of men helping with domestic work.

During their 13-year marriage, the couple has been at its happiest only three years ago when Nkundibiza started helping his wife with domestic work.

“What I can tell other men is that it does not cost anything to help your spouse with household work and taking care of children which includes changing diapers,” he said.

Clementine Nyirantegerejimana, Nkundibiza’s wife said in the community where they live, it’s not normal to find a man who helps his wife with domestic work.

“Before we started counseling, he couldn’t even hold the baby when it was crying even when I was doing other things. He could say children belong only to me,” she narrates.

Whenever we would come back from farming on our piece of land, he would storm off to drink and return at night demanding for food and would quarrel if it wasn’t ready, she reveals.

“He didn’t beat me but he hardly consulted me on decisions that affected our family,” Nyirantegerejimana says.

After attending training together under the Indashyikirwa project, they were given a list of household chores women do in everyday life, which are taken for granted as they don’t generate any income, she adds.

“After realizing all this, he decided to change and since then when we come from farming, we both go home and do chores at home. For example, if I’m preparing a meal, he can bath the children and take them to bed, if I’m out fetching water, he is also looking for fire wood.”

Their financial welfare has also become better due to better communication. The couple now owns two plots of land and two cows.

Clementine Nyirantegerejimana speaks to the media about how the ‘men engage’ program has helped her family. courtesy.

Women don’t report domestic abuse

ImmaculéeIngabire, the Chairperson of Transparency Rwanda said many women face various forms of violence but rarely report as they fear the reaction of society.

Most of the times, GBV victims are the ones who feel ashamed, and they don’t even want other people to know the situation they live in, she said.

“It’s because of the mindset and culture, that most women have been raised in being told by their parents and communities that they should learn to be patient and obedient to their husbands even when there is abuse,” she said.

Ingabire said everything concerning legal framework on Gender Based Violence is there, however the problem is still related to mentalities and behaviour.

“We really need behavior change and it is a process, you can’t expect to end the GBV in one, two or three years,” she said.

Ingabire urged the government to always take up from where the anti GBV projects end, in order to sustain what they have done to reduce violence in households.

“There are anti GBV committees, they should really be trained and then stay there to continue what those people were doing,” she said.

“I’m sometimes frustrated when I see projects like this ending, and their impacts end as well. It’s like nothing has been done. I’m sure next year, if nothing is done to sustain what has been done, the situation will be even worse,” she added.

David Museruka, the Executive Secretary of RWAMREC, an organisation which aims to address issues of negative masculine behaviors and gender inequalities said one of the challenges they faced when they were implementing the project was that it takes long to change a person’s mindset.

“We need to partner with government institutions and put it into planning in order to continue with these anti GBV activities especially when we are not there,” he said.

More than 2,500 people including couples have been trained and are expected to train others at the household level within seven districts in 14 sectors covered by

Mary Barikungeli, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Women Network, said the outcomes of the projects are obvious, as men have been engaged and they have been changed to be the anti GBV agents.

“We have a place called Safe Space where women report various problems they face which the organisation bases on to develop an approach to address them. We chose a way to converse with men and women in order to help them find problems they have, and suitable solutions as well. That’s why even men have been engaged and changed,” she said.