Sonke Gender Justice, the MenEngage Africa Network and the Women’s Health Research Unit of the University of Cape Town facilitated a groundbreaking ten day training course on Masculinities, Leadership and Gender Justice in Sub-Saharan Africa from 20-30 August 2012. The course, the first one of the MenEngage Africa Training Initiative, also known as MATI, took place at the All Africa House at the University of Cape Town.
Over six hundred applications were received by Sonke’s International Programmes and Networking Unit, for the course which had space for about twenty people. Eventually twenty three participants from across Sub-Saharan Africa gathered to think critically about and reflect on issues around masculinities, gender norms and gender equality.
It was the first regional course of its kind focusing on masculinities and gender equality with the overall objectives to expand the skills, knowledge and capacity of men and women across the region to scale up work with men and boys for gender equality, and to build a network of the next generation of gender justice leaders and advocates.
The course tackled a variety of topics, covering both thematic issues and skills building. Thematic topics included sexual and reproductive health and rights, masculinities, gender and social norms, culture and tradition, gender-based violence, women’s rights and the women’s movement, HIV and AIDS, fatherhood, children’s rights, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. The skills building component focused on research, leadership, advocacy skills and monitoring and evaluation. We also had one site visit to Health4Men to learn practical skills from an organisation at work.
A critical component of the course was the ‘Project for Change’ which each participant submitted as part of the application process. This was a project they were currently working on within their organisation or a new one they wished to start. Each day of the course required participants to critically reflect on and include what they learned during the course in their project for change. At the end of the course each participant had to present what they learned and how this would be integrated into their programmatic work.
Some projects aimed to integrate more gender transformation into their existing programmes, while some were plans for entirely new endeavours. Participants’ projects include making digital stories with boys for personal expression, SRHR and HIV education through couples evening programmes, work with elders and traditional leaders to transform gender norms and health outcomes, and national projects aimed at mass education and bolstering networking and collaboration between likeminded organisations.
Each participant has been assigned a mentor for one year who will guide and assist them with their project for change. This is an important part of sustaining, reinforcing and implementing what was learned in the course, and it provides crucial ongoing support to participants, some of whom have never worked with men and boys in their field before.
Overall the participants felt that they gained a lot from the course and that their knowledge has increased. They felt that it was a brilliant opportunity for learning.
This training course is a critical first step in building capacity on the African continent to engage men and boys for gender equality and how to most effectively include this in programmatic work.
Sonke is grateful to the Women’s Health Research Unit and is looking forward to more collaboration and more MATI courses.
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