While the importance of engaging men and boys in gender justice work has been widely recognised, most initiatives to engage them tend to be small-scale and short-term. In order to transform pervasive gender inequalities within Africa, a scaling-up and widening in scope of the programmes and models already known to be effective is imperative. The MenEngage Africa Training Initiative (MATI) provides an example of a programme designed to address this gap.
The vision for MATI is to build a dynamic, vocal and visible network of leaders and gender justice advocates that will drive the gender equality and human rights agenda on the African continent. The first step towards realising this vision is through the implementation of training courses that provide cutting-edge and up-to-date information on gender, public health and human rights in order to expand the knowledge and skills of activists in Africa. Since 2012, four highly successful training courses have been implemented and more are planned to take place in other parts of the continent up until 2018. Thus far, a total of seventy-five men and women have been trained from over twenty African countries.
To learn more about MATI, including the experiences of past participants, please read the MATI Overview Booklet.
We cannot over-emphasise the value and impact of the course on your personal and work life. Some of the participants in last year’s training, “Women’s Health, Masculinities and Empowerment: Advocacy and Leadership” share how the course has changed their outlook on life as well as influenced their work for significantly better outcomes.
Testimonials from MATI 2016:
|“Women’s Health, Empowerment and Masculinities: Policy Advocacy Training” – what an informative and eye-opening experience this was! The training was intense but worth it. As activists, we need to be informed, need new information and new experiences and that’s what I got from the training.
The methodology used in training – the case studies, videos and exercises were very innovative. It made helped make understating much easier. The impact of the training cannot be overlooked. Following this training, I now appreciate the LGBTIQ community. That’s one area where I mostly learned new information and it changed my perception towards LGBTIQ people. Thanks to guest facilitator, Steve Letsike. She cleared all the misconceptions I had. Indeed, that was empowerment on my side.
Meeting participants from all over Africa working in different projects, with different skills sets and areas of expertise was good for sharing experience that brings growth in our organisations, and the networking was very good.
The training has helped us in programming our new project on men and boys in fighting HIV/AIDS and hope to attend more training in future for further growth.
|I am a rape activist based in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The Eastern Cape is mostly rural and this means that there is limited access to services, particularly those aimed at addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and the law. Rural areas are mostly governed by customary law, which is problematic for GBV. Patriarchy forms the back-bone of customary law. The police, who have little understanding of gender-based violence, often send women back home to “sort out” family issues within the family, resulting in years of abuse and, in some cases, death. It is hard working in this environment. The province has been in the headlines recently for the high number of rapes and killings of elderly women.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done at different levels. It is important for government and law makers to send a strong message through policies and laws that these crimes will not be tolerated. It is also important for communities to come together and demand meaningful services from the police, clinics and the courts. Institutions such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Health (DoH) also need to be held accountable to extend their services to all communities including the deepest rural villages. Traditional leaders need to be engaged on GBV. Men and boys need to be part of the solution.
Attending the Women’s Health, Empowerment and Masculinities Training, which was held in Gaborone, Botswana, in September 2016, has helped me understand the roles of all the different institutions and how to engage them. We got practical skills on engaging all the different levels. Many case studies from similar settings were shared by the facilitators, thus giving us concrete examples on strategies that we can use. It was refreshing that the strategies also included rural communities as many courses only talk to urban settings.
Most importantly, the course highlighted for me the role of men in women’s health. I believe that you cannot deal with the problem if you do not understand the whole spectrum. We learned a lot about analysing programmes in terms of whether they are gender-transformative or not. The course participants brought a lot of energy into debates and discussions. This helped us a lot in synthesising our thoughts and opinions. It was helpful that the lecturers gave us the space to do just that. I believe that 50% of our learning came from these robust discussions.
The lecturers and the guest lecturers were relevant and knowledgeable in their respective fields and left us wanting more. We did a lot of practical work which reinforced our learning. I would recommend the course to all GBV activists!
|I was amongst the first few to step into the Botswana National Productivity Centre hostel, keen to settle before the course started the next day, Thursday September 1st 2016. The atmosphere and the landscape of Botswana reminded me of South African soil, a feeling I further qualified after meeting the coordinating team and members of staff. We continued to share conversations and laughs at the evening dinner table, showing much excitement and anticipation for the events to come.
About 30 delegates from around the continent gathered for 14 days for the WMATI course on Women’s Health, Empowerment and Masculinities. Upon introductions, I chose the name ‘Savuka’ to signify coming into what I felt was a process of enlightenment, of learning and growing amongst gender activists in the cause towards social reform. It was a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to share a room with delegates who come from 10 countries around the continent, ranging from South Africa right up to Uganda. The course opened a platform of engagement on various gender issues from theoretical, research and practical perspectives. The platform seemed to show potential for unpacking gender issues, opening a space that promised awareness of struggles shared all across the African continent. It allowed us to engage on ways in which to advocate for change in our various contexts, and also share experiences to broaden our perspectives of issues affecting people on the ground.
The course material undertook to explore various topics which illuminate the discourse on gender equality. Topics included the negative effects gender discrimination has on women’s health, as well as research done to understand the consequence of different changes in policy on the lived experience of men and women on the ground. One of my key concerns upon approaching the course was the element of culture as a construct of identity, yet often used to restrict and disempower people based on the gender ideals they carry. How do we approach having to deconstruct (gender) identity in order to make people aware of the issues that are caused by rigid gender norms and sexism? This question was interrogated during the various presentations dealing with advocacy and aligning stakeholders to movement building. It was suggested that direct work in communities would be required to get an understanding of people’s experiences, as well as sensitisation workshops that would educate victims and perpetrators of gender inequality and/or gender-based violence (GBV). Such presentations gave us a method from which to approach the work we do in our own contexts and reach the outcomes needed for affective change in our communities.
In as much as gender was the central topic of engagement, we could not have done justice to the conversation without touching base on the contribution played by sexuality. The topic of sex and sexuality was amongst the highly favoured among participants, steering heated discussions around debunking and unpacking the ideas we have on sex based on politics, culture and religion. Tensions developed upon discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) issues as most were intrigued to learn more about LGBTIQ, while some minds seemed opposed to the notion of alternative sexualities and gender expressions altogether. Although we did not reach consensus on ways in which to incorporate LGBTIQ issues into the broader struggle and importance thereof, the conversation was concluded with most people having posed their questions with the opportunity to mull over the responses given by facilitators and participants alike.
In as much as the personal is political, and activists engage politically to influence social change, the individual lives people live intersect far beyond concepts discussed in the boardroom. We were able to enjoy gender exercises that enacted different types of gender norms and masculinities for discussion. Men were able to depict behaviours of women, and women of men, which showed the fluidity and ever changing concept of gender. We were also afforded the chance to interact in social hangout spaces outside of the classroom, which included a lip-synching competition (won by yours truly) and a games night on the last night we shared together. It showed that although we are from different paths of life, we are still connected by the commonalities we share as human beings, be it striving for healthy relations, justice for those in need, or a good standard of living for individuals and our countries as a whole. We have faith that such platforms, including this one, afforded by organisations and funding bodies, will provide a broader and inclusive perspective of our struggles as Africans, and leave us critical and optimistic about our engagements in the fight for social justice and equality for all.
|I can still hear the voice of the course director, Paula Tavrow, in my head, saying “this is a very intensive course”, and I laugh alone all by myself all the time. Indeed, the training was intensive, but it was also very informative and educational course and I learned a lot from it.
My highlights were the course articles that we had to read every night. Some of them really resonated with my work and personal experiences. They were very informative and they served well to prepare us participants for each next day’s sessions.
Then there were the fun theatre activities which got me to test my acting skills and forced me to think on my feet and come up with a script within a limited time. This was very challenging. It challenged us to be creative and improvise to have a great outcome. Even though sometimes the activities would be dreadful, the team still managed to give our all because we were all committed to the training and willing to learn from the facilitators and other participants. The activities showed us the importance of using theatre to communicate daily challenges around gender inequalities and various other social ills.
Each day we had facilitators and guest presenters teaching sharing very educative and enlightening presentations. The ones that resonated with me the most were on Understanding Human Sexuality, Policy Advocacy, Masculinities and Gender Continuum. These were things that I did not know about. Those that I was knowledgeable about were thoroughly explored and explained, which I am grateful for.
Many of the presentations made us challenge our values and what we believe in. Even though I’ve always advocated for women, children and LGBTI people, this training released within me a renewed passion to fight for these communities as the struggle is not over yet.
We were also taught about proposal writing and this was followed by a hands-on exercise where participants took part in a competition for a seed grant to fund a project of their choice. That was the most stressful time in the training and I felt under so much pressure. It was my first time ever to have to figure out how to write a proposal. I was surprised when my proposal made it to the top 10. Even though I did not get to be in the top five, I am satisfied with the opportunity I got to test my knowledge and skills and the feedback, thereof. These were helpful lessons that I believe will be of essential value in my work going forward.
|In an ideal world, everyone would like to be treated equal. However, in this world, you need to, at least, do something for you to be treated equal – and being a woman you also need to work extra hard as many conditions favour men than women. For example, young women and girls are often denied access to basic education. So, yes, you most often have to work hard towards that goal. This is one of the lessons I learnt from the WMATI 2016 course. I learned that there is a need to be more proactive and not reactive. The real world is a painful, brutal one and if you do not make the effort to chase after something proactively, then you cannot get anywhere in life. But I have also learned that being a woman does not limit anyone, everyone has the power to change things.
These lessons come after I had, in 2014, studied for a post-graduate degree in Gender Equality with the University of Iceland and I have worked in the gender field since then. Upon attending the WMATI 2016 course, I thought I knew pretty much a lot about gender equality and all the dynamics around it. I remember on my first day in class looking through the course outline and thinking there was nothing new that I would learn from this. However, as the first few minutes went by, I realised there was a lot of new things I would learn about.
The facilitators of the course were wonderful and the class was more exciting and encouraged participation more than any other class I have taken. What I liked the most is how in this class we learned through interaction with others and everyone’s input was valued equally. Having all those other participants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia and Uganda, I learned a lot about myself through learning about other people. The inclusion of theatre as a means to deliver messages made me look at the world and my personal surroundings in a completely different light. It widened my view of gender. While most people generally know me as the quietest person, doing theatre gave me a place where I am not as intimidated about speaking my mind as I am in many situations.
Through studying this course, I learnt about the struggles women have had to go through and are still going through in life to become independent, educated, and so on. These are issues that we have probably always known and thought of as normal in the society. This made me realise the importance of being a feminist.
|I have been practicing as a journalist since 2008 and have thus gained considerable experience in the field and for the past six years I have been reporting on Gender and Health issues.
My academic credentials include a Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies from the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM), a Bsc Honours Degree in Sociology and Gender Development Studies from the Women’s University in Africa, as well as a post-graduate Diploma in Media and Society Studies from the Midlands State University.
I’m an arts, music and sports aficionado and during my spare time I pursue these as my hobbies.
I write for a living and live to write. I believe in the power of the pen and the spoken word.
The WMATI 2016 training programme was, to me, mind opening and intellectually nourishing. It broadened my horizons in as far as gender issues are concerned. I emerged wiser after a two-week interaction with gender activists of diverse backgrounds and varying experiences from across the African continent.
The cross-pollination of ideas was enriching – not to mention the informative lectures, reading and activities engaged in during the course.
Issues that captured my attention during the training programme and were a sure take-home after the course include; Public Policy and Advocacy, Gender Dynamics, Women’s Health and Empowerment and, most interestingly, Freire’s concepts.
The course content was rich and helped demystify as well as clarify some of the misconceptions and prejudices I had prior to the course. I was left more enlightened, which is a plus to my work as a Gender and Health journalist. I can now report from a more informed position as well as interrogate issues a little more.
Where I may have been pedestrian in my understanding, the course left me a pseudo-expert and gave me a foundation to build my stock of knowledge on matters Gender, Women’s Health and Masculinities.
The facilitators were exceptional and proved to be experts in their respective fields. They were able to respond to queries of different shapes and sizes from participants.
The WMATI 2016 course had an immediate impact on my personal life and gave me a starting point in my efforts to shrug off prejudices emanating from gender-insensitive cultural practices. In particular was the One Man Can initiative that to me appeared like a Damascus moment. Had the facilitators made an altar call after the course, I certainly would have been one of the converts.
During the two-week training programme I was able to make new friends, create new contacts as well as broaden my networks. Creating contacts is an important aspect of my work as a journalist.
The course gave me an insight into “Concept Note” writing, something that had been foreign to me prior. I was able to develop a concept note on a policy advocacy campaign for the abolishment of lobola. My concept note, titled “Lobola Must Fall: Towards Gender-Sensitive Marriage Customs in Africa”, focused on the linkages between gender-based violence (GBV), marital rape and the practice of lobola payment.
My concept note made it to the top 10 and to me that was enough evidence I had learnt right – and from the best – during the course. When the concept note further made it to the top five, winning the Seed Grant competition I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction that, indeed, the training programme had been worthwhile.
I feel a sense of compulsion to implement my project and push through all available means until cultural leaders revise such cultural practices as lobola to become more gender-sensitive.
In conclusion, the WMATI 2016 course was a worthwhile engagement and I would not hesitate to recommend my colleagues to apply for the next edition of the course.
|I was elated upon being nominated to travel to Botswana for the course. The news of my participation in WMATI 2016 reached me by telephone from my Programmes Director five days to the start of the course. I had to make a quick fix to my work assignments and delegate.
I can’t help but thank you and my organisation for the great opportunity I got to be part of the course. That course has turned around my perspective of working with women.
Back home I have already got an opportunity to share my newly acquired knowledge with two organisations at home – Set Her Free and Reproductive Health Uganda. I have done this through conducting a technical review of their health campaign proposals. Set Her Free is writing a proposal to work with victims of sexual violations while Reproductive Health Uganda is writing a proposal to mitigate the challenges faced by HIV-positive sex workers who are on ARVs in Kampala.
Currently, I am putting together a policy advocacy brief to the board of directors at my organisation calling for a review of the Human Resource Policy to include more time for paternal leave. The course helped open up so many new ways of doing work and I am currently overwhelmed by the number of tasks I need to accomplish to integrate gender and working with men and boys in all our programmes.
Recently, my country released a report on how far we have moved towards gender equality. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done by us gender justice advocates.
Personally, I have been helped to redefine my relations with my wife. She keeps commenting: “You are a different kind of man”. This is because she notices that I am not a man who follows stereotypes anymore. She has also told me that I should never leave the area of women’s health because she says I am good at it. J
From the course, I am very equipped and determined to work a lot with men and boys. I see a great opportunity there to fast-track achievements for gender equality. We are now having discussions with various organisations on how to celebrate the International Men’s Day on November 19th, 2016.
The WMATI course was to me, a golden moment not even the Olympic gold and the golden World Cup football trophy can compare. Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:32] of Al-Qur’an states; “…And whoever saves one (soul) – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” Top of FoBottom of FormWMATI was and remains, life-saving knowledge. The carefully integrated course on gender, women’s health and policy advocacy made a great deal to me as I kept doing analysis of most of our development challenges in families, but also as nations.
Through this course, I also learned about the fears and lives of LGBTI populations and I now understand the misconceptions around this community. I have come to appreciate that justice needs to be done even if the majority of people can be supporting injustices.
Finally, my eyes are now also open to the fact that parity in gender, justice and human rights in Africa is possible, but it will take a huge investment in public education, dialogue and debate to justify that religion and culture are not there to create injustices for humanity and where they do, each of us has to strive to do good to each other and forbid evil.
Testimonials from MATI 2015:
|The Women’s Health, Masculinities and Empowerment – Advocacy and Leadership Training, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2015 was a significant eye opener for me. As a female doctor that is living and working in sub-Saharan Africa, issues pertaining to gender and empowerment – specifically health issues – are very apparent in my day to day practice. Beyond this experience, I continue to appreciate the training because it systematically touched on key issues with an emphasis on advocacy – an area neglected in my medical training. The ability to vocalise the needs of women as well as possible approaches in tackling problems related to gender inequality is a fundamental key step to addressing gender disparities.
In addition to advocacy, the training emphasised the role of men in gender inequality. In the past, masculinity issues were often neglected when addressing gender empowerment and inequalities. The course – through skits, lectures, film and field trips – was able to demonstrate the importance of this role. I am now convinced that interventions touching on gender issues must include a focus on masculinities and the role of men in order to improve their effectiveness. It is for this very same reason that I chose to centre my project write-up during the course work on providing masculinity training for recovering male alcohol and drug abusers.
|The MenEngage Africa Training Initiative training on Women’s Health, Advocacy and Empowerment opened my eyes to the reality of women’s issues. Indeed, there were things I thought were not important about women, but during and after the training, I realised that I needed to do something. Since I am a Christian and my church is near a slum area in Nairobi I spoke with my Bishop on starting a sanitary towels project for girls from the slums as this is a major problem that often keeps girls away from school as many of the girls in the community cannot afford to buy sanitary towels. The project aims to reduce absenteeism from school, to end the shame that accompanies menstruation due to a lack of sanitary towels and to build the girls’ self-esteem. The project started with 20 girls and now it has grown to more than 300 girls. It’s one of the activities I never thought of before I attended the training and I am happy that I’m involved in this. The training also gave me an opportunity to win a grant to do work with religious leaders to increase awareness of gender-based violence and harmful gender norms among religious leaders as well as build and strengthen their capacity to address intimate partner violence during pre-marital counselling. This is working very well since more than 20 religious leaders are in the programme and couples are undergoing counselling.
The training really opened avenues for me. I was also recently involved in a Beyond Zero marathon with the Kenyan First Lady to raise funds to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the country. This enabled me to expand my networks with government, civil society organisations as well as corporates. The ‘Beyond Zero campaign’ is part of the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Framework for the engagement of the First Lady in HIV control and promotion of maternal, newborn and child health in Kenya that was unveiled on World AIDS Day 2013. The framework aims to galvanise high-level leadership in ending new HIV infections among children and reducing HIV related deaths among women and children in Kenya.
|Before the course, I had done some work on gender, women’s empowerment and some advocacy work in the rural area where I work. I mainly focused on women and giving them knowledge on their rights. In most cases, these women just internalised the knowledge but did not act. But after the training, I realised a whole new meaning to women’s health and empowerment, leadership and advocacy. One thing that also struck me is the way all these dimensions are interlinked and how one cannot address each alone.
I believe I am NOW AN EMPOWERED WOMAN, in knowledge and in will! As a result of knowledge from various schools of thought around women’s health and empowerment that I learnt in the course, I have started to take men as allies rather than enemies in the fight to empower women. I have an understanding of the roots of gender inequality and the progress made so far to attain women’s empowerment, including ways to sustain that change. The course took us through strategies such as male engagement and women’s economic strengthening in empowering women that I am now using in my day to day work. Not only have these strategies made it easy for men and women to get together and interact on gender equality issues, but they have made my work easier!
The course exposed me to many people who are experts in different fields, which was a wonderful networking platform that is still alive to this day. Finally, the women who were the course tutors, the guest facilitators and others I read about during the course inspired me. They all seemed successful and gave evidence of how they have dedicated their lives to empower other women. Deep inside me something awakened and I told myself that I want to be one of those women!
|The training was both challenging and transformative at both the individual and professional levels. It has really changed the way l do HIV programming, as now l realise that men and women play a critical role in addressing gender inequalities in society. At the individual level, the training has also completely changed my gender roles, a development that has further cemented the bond that I have with my spouse and kids.|
|This course equipped me with knowledge on how to engage men and boys in promoting women’s and children’s health in our society. It has also helped improve MenEngage DRC’s programming for gender equality. I now have a great understanding of different aspects of negative masculinities and how they have contributed to my country’s under-development and how they contribute to conflict situations.
In my personal life, this course has helped me take charge for the improvement of my own health and to identify how I can empower myself as a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These are skills that I share with my fellow country women.
|I was one of the people who were fortunate enough to be part of the team that attended the 2015 Women’s Health, Masculinities, and Empowerment: Advocacy and Leadership Training (WMATI 2015). It was my first time to undergo such a training and I benefited immensely from being part of it. The topics covered during the training did not just improve and enhance my professional capacities, but they personally empowered and positively challenged my perspective on different issues.
Currently my work involves working with key populations such as sex workers, LGBTIQ, youths and women and most of the WMATI presentations done during the 2015 training touched on these key populations. I benefited by gaining the latest information that has to do with women’s health and the possible programmes that can be implemented to promote good health for women.
Currently, many organisations and funders of programmes are moving towards gender and how men and the youth can be part of the efforts to attain gender justice, contrary to previous interventions which targeted only women. In that regard, MenEngage Africa and Sonke did an amazing job in sharing how they have been doing their work and the strategies that they have employed in this endeavour. Some of these strategies I am trying to use in my work and they are already significantly changing the texture, quality and essence of my work. Not many organisations are doing male engagement programmes and this training allowed me to acquire skills to do so, and to do it effectively. The field visits done during the training were also of great importance as they helped me to fully understand and appreciate by coming face-to-face with mechanisms being used in terms of working with key populations who, in most cases, are people that society has marginalised and criminalised.
Of importance to me too were the additional materials like videos and case studies which were then shared at the end of the training. Being a trainer at work, these are proving to be useful as I carry out my day to day work activities.
Participating in the training, therefore, enhanced my skills in facilitating and in availing recent information in the field of development and women’s health.
|Attending the 2015 Women’s Health, Masculinities and Empowerment Training was a turning point for me as a student of leadership in women’s empowerment issues. The all encompassing course worked as an eye opener and deepened my understanding of how oppression of women and girls can amount to negative life-threatening and traumatising consequences.
I have also discovered that meaningful involvement of men and boys in empowering women and girls is one of the main effective strategies of ending violence against women, especially in rural areas where culture and tradition are at the epicentre of dehumanisation.
As a young leader who works with young girls and women in marginalised and hard to reach rural areas, I have succeeded in applying innovative and cost-effective strategies of empowering women. Despite very scarce resources, my project, The Red Robot Campaign, has managed to reach 2 000 beneficiaries using only $35.
I developed the Red Robot concept after attending the MATI training in Kenya.
Crossing the red robot is one of the strictly prohibited traffic rules. All over the world people and vehicles have perished for crossing red robots. Child marriages in my community have amounted to serious negative social and economic repercussions to women and girls. Child birth caesarean operations, obstetric fistula and maternal deaths have been as a result of early and forced child marriages, especially in rural, marginalised and hard to reach areas in Zimbabwe. Marrying off under-age girls is a culture and pattern that today’s parents have resisted to shun. Fragmented parents-daughter communication on reproductive health rights has been exacerbated by a lack of information targeted at rural people about girls’ reproductive health and rights.
Red Robot Campaign project seeks to educate young girls and parents on the practical dangers of early and forced child marriages using the illustration of crossing the red robot. Whether the girl child has entered into an early marriage voluntarily or by being forced, the consequence is just the same.
This project, therefore, equates the devastating impact of crossing the red robot and early and forced child marriages. The Red Robot Campaign is targeting 20 000 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 as well as 4 000 parents in Mutoko and Mudzi districts.
The project has so far reached 2 000 targeted beneficiaries in Mutoko wards 10, 11 and 20.