Click on slideshow for larger photos
September 26, 2007
Scroll down for compiled blog entries from Steven Botkin, James Arana and others in sequential order or click the links below to jump directly to a particular day's entry.
- 21 September | The Journey to Rwanda Begins
- 23 September | Steven Writes En Route to Rwanda
- 25 September | Steven Reflects on the Arrival in Rwanda
- 26 September | James Describes the First Day of Training
- 26 September | Steven Writes about Day 1 of RWAMREC Training
- 27 September | James on Training Day Two: Sun Up to Sun Set
- 27 September | Steven Writes As RWAMREC Training Ends
- 28 September | Ugo Nnachi: Opening New Frontiers in Rwanda
- 28 September | Uduma Uduma: Workshop is An Eye-Opener
- 28 September | A Visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial
- 29 September | Adieus, a Wedding, and Government Meetings
- 30 September | More Goodbyes, the Gacaca, and Shared Stories
- 01 October | Visits with CARE, IRC and PROFEM
- 02 October | The CARE Training Begins
- 03 October | CARE Training, Day 2
- 04 October | The CARE Training Ends with a Goodbye to Rwanda
- 05 October | Adin Reflects on the Trip to Rwanda
- 09 October | Steven On the CARE Training
September 21, 2007: The Journey to Rwanda Begins
Associate Director James Arana, who with Executive Director Steven Botkin leaves for Rwanda on Sunday, September 23, writes:
Our journey to Rwanda started during a meeting in the Haymarket Café in Northampton Mass. where we handed over some copies of our brand new, hot-off-the-press MRI brochure to Adin Thayer of the Karuna Center. Adin was leaving for one of her many trips to Rwanda and asked if we would like her to pass out our brochures. A few months later, Fidèle Rutayisire of Rwanda emailed MRI to get information on how to start a men's center and the communication never ceased. Fidèle did his research and, after long emails and phone consultations with MRI, assembled his potential board members together and the Rwanda Men's Center was born. Six months later, Fidèle joined us in Nigeria for an MRI training.
What a pleasure it was to meet Fidèle after months of email and phone conversations! He, along with 35 other Nigerians, Zambians, and MRI staff from the Americas, embarked on a rigorous training to help bring everyone together around the work of supporting African men to end gender-based violence.
So, to say that we are excited to be going to Rwanda is an understatement. The realization that I'm going back to Africa, the motherland, is overwhelming. This trip is important to MRI because to support a people and a country that has gone through so much harrowing violence over its recent past is an honor. We've listened to Fidèle, joined in his work to form the Rwanda Men's Center, and, though there's much yet to be done, we join in his pride of the accomplishments so far.
You can follow our progress in Rwanda by visiting this blog during the time that we are there. We invite you to share in the exhilarating development of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre.
Representatives of the Rwandan Coffee Cooperatives
Sponsored to Attend the Training by Dean's Beans Organic Coffee
Back to top.
September 23, 2007: Steven Writes En Route to Rwanda
James, Adin and I are 3900 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, on our way to Rwanda. It's a 20 hour journey (with a refueling stop in Rome and a change of planes in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).
In Addis, we will meet our colleagues from the Zambia Men's Network, Stephen Mbati and Stencilous Phiri, who will join us for the trip to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). We will also be joined in Rwanda by our colleagues from the Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre in Nigeria, Ugo Nnachi and Uduma Uduma. We will be met in Rwanda by our colleague Fidel Rutayisire, founder and chairman of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre.
We are gathering again (having been together in Nigeria last November) to conduct our training on engaging men in ending gender-based violence for members of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre (RWAMREC) and others from the community. And to continue to build the network of connection and support among men and women in Africa who are doing this work. We are excited and humbled by the opportunity to continue to support these initiatives Men's Resource International has helped to launch over the past year and a half.
The challenges are daunting -- centuries of violence and oppression, cultural legacies of patriarchy, extreme pervasive poverty, lack of funding for programs. And yet, these leaders have committed themselves to pursuing the vision of building networks of men allied with women for ending violence and promoting positive masculinity.
Our three-day training, funded completely by individual donors to Men's Resources International, will include more than thirty Rwandans (in addition to the international delegates). With support from Dean's Beans Organic Coffee Company, four representatives from "up-country" coffee cooperatives will be attending. Following the training we will facilitate a strategic planning meeting with members of the RWAMREC board of directors.
During our second week in Rwanda, James, Adin and I will conduct a similar training and consultation with CARE International staff who are eager to develop male involvement in their violence prevention and reproductive health programs.
We will do our best to keep you updated on these experiences through regular blog entries, and photographs. You can send us your thoughts and blessings by posting comments on this weblog or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. On behalf of all of us gathering in Rwanda, we thank you for your interest and support.
In faith, Steven
View of Kigali from Hotel Balcony
Back to top.
September 25, 2007: Steven Reflects on the Arrival in Rwanda
Yesterday passed by in a blur of plane flights (landings in Rome, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and, finally Kigali).
Returning to Africa is a deeply emotional experience for us in many ways. The reunion with our friends and colleagues from Zambia, Nigeria and Rwanda was joyous after the last 10 months of communication and support via email and phone. Rwanda truly is "the land of 1000 hills." The city, carpeting the hills, is bustling with life. Evidence of reconstruction and development is everywhere. The legacies of ethnic conflict and genocide are not visible to us newcomers.
After settling into our rooms (with a breathtaking balcony overlooking the eastern hills of Kigali), and taking a much needed shower, we met with staff from CARE International in our hotel restaurant (a veranda with another spectacular view) to make arrangements for next week's training and consultation. Delphine and Maimouna were delighted at the timing of the connection with Men's Resources International, as they are launching new programs where male involvement will play a critical role.
We then moved to another table where members of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre executive committee had gathered to welcome us to Rwanda. We were impressed with the social stature of the men Fidel has recruited, and their excitement about the MRI training.
After dinner, we gratefully and quickly went to bed.
Training Participants Introducing Themselves
Back to top.
September 26, 2007: James Describes the First Day of Training in Rwanda
This morning, I got up with the 5:00 A.M. call to prayer and I felt so rested after a physically grueling day yesterday. The eighteen-hour flight on three different planes and several time zones threw me for a loop. After all that time of confinement and body restriction I got up yesterday about 4:00 A.M., and knew I had to get up and move my body. I left the room at daybreak to admire the kaleidoscope of colors painted across the sky.
The view of Rwanda from our hotel balcony is just stunning. This is called the land of a thousand hills and aptly so. I wanted to go jogging but was intimidated by all the hills. You cannot walk too far with out walking up or down a substantial hill, so I decided to take a walk to find a park for a round of Tai Chi and some karate. My body was calling out to be stretched. I found a nice landing overlooking some fields that was ideal for meditation and practice. As I stretched and moved, my body screamed out for more. After an hour and a half, my body was singing and I thanked God for the gift of movement and the opportunity to be here in this sacred land with so much history. I was now ready for the day ahead.
When I got back to the room Steven was doing his Tai Chi. We acknowledged each other with a smile and I got ready for breakfast and our planning for our first day of training. At the breakfast table Adin, Steven, and I marveled at our being here with our brothers and sisters from Nigeria and Zambia.
We all were breaking bread this morning after converging yesterday at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to board the flight for Kigali to meet our brother Fidel. The airport erupted with joy when we saw each other. To see Stanislaus, Stephen, Uduma and Ugo all with great big smiles and open arms was a great delight. We hugged, kissed and beamed with each others' smiles.
Of course it was a nail-biting experience waiting on the seemingly motionless line to get to the other side where we would see if we would all be on the same flight. Our African friends had spent the night in Addis and got to the airport hours before we did. We did make it onto the same flight, but what was supposed to be a one-hour trip took two-plus hours because of the local stops. The extra time was nothing compared to what had come before: we traveled from Bradley airport in Connecticut to the Washington, D.C. airport, to Rome, to Addis Ababa, to Kenya, and on to Kigali, with three airplane changes. To say that I needed to feel solid ground under my feet would be an understatement.
Yesterday's training was a great success. There were at least 28 participants. A few dignitaries gave their blessings and we began to get to know our new brothers and sisters. As usual, there was not enough time to get in all we wanted because of the need for translation. We spent extra time trying to make sure that our thoughts and concepts were being understood. It was beautiful to see how sensitive, patient and caring the two translators were. It was fascinating to observe their struggle to try and capture certain concepts in Kinyarwandi.
By the end of the day I was super-tired and needed a nap. I was able to get a strong hour and a half nap and was good to go for the rest of the evening.
I am looking forward to a new day of training.
Steven, James, and Adin with Colleagues
from Zambia and Nigeria
Back to top.
September 26, 2007: Steven Writes about the First Day of the Rwanda Training
This morning Fidel transported us to the training venue, Club Mamans Sportif. The opening ceremony for the training included remarks from the executive director of PROFEM, the national network of women's organizations, and an executive secretary for women's affairs in the city of Kigali.
Our inability to speak Kinyarwanda or French required translation throughout the training. Although this slowed down the process, the ability to speak in their own language contributed to a comfort in self-expression and openness that made this day a success.
After the 30 participants introduced themselves the day included discussions about the violence, presentations by Chief Ugo Nnachi of Nigeria and Stencilous Phiri of Zambia about gender-based violence in their countries, and the obstacles to engaging men on these issues.
We ended the day affirming that a belief in men's natural caring and compassion is central to MRI's strategy for male involvement in violence prevention.
Participants expressed encouragement and hope as they left the first day of training. One young man, who lost his father when he was five, spoke beautifully about being ready to be married, but confused about these issues -- "I wonder if I should wait until we have created more gender equality."
Discussion During the Training
Back to top.
September 27, 2007: James on Day Two of the Training: From Sun Up To Sun Set
As I stated before, I got up with call to prayer and did not put my head down until midnight. After our planning session for the final day of training. We -- Steven, Adin and I -- were struggling to keep our eyes open, but knew that we could not end the day without processing our work together.
We resolved to wake up early to get to the training site by 8:30 A.M. to start at 9:00 A.M. sharp. We were continually trying to figure out what we would not be able to squeeze in, and have to let go, trusting that we would be able to tie it in somewhere else. We paid close attention to the way we were working together with the four facilitators (from Nigeria and Zambia) who we invited in to this process, and discussed the areas of the training where we were not feeling supported or connected.
The day was a whirlwind, with a catch-up pace from the beginning. We acknowledged that the participants were fully engaged, connecting with each other, challenging each other, and grasping the concepts well. What more could we ask for? Well, for one thing, we would have liked to recover the extra hour we lost by ending the day at 4:00 P.M. We agreed that the participants were hungry for more details on every topic area we were sharing. The four participants from the Coffee Cooperative were asking when we would be back to provide the training to their group, convinced that further work would help their community.
We had a great meeting that lasted four-plus hours with a Rwandan consultant who had recently drafted national policy guidelines for the Ministry of Gender. He listened with great interest to Chef Ugo Nachi of Nigeria describing the impact of the training in her country, and began to envision strategies for measuring impact, sustainability, and replicability. To say that we welcomed Mr. Gakuba's perspective would be an understatement. We left that meeting knowing that our day would not be complete until our planning session and fill-ins were complete, certificates for the participants signed, calls made home, and blogs emailed.
Blessing the Pole
Back to top.
September 27, 2007: Steven Writes As The Rwanda Training Ends
The training ended today. There is no doubt that the lives of the 40 participants have been changed. Once again, men learning how to listen to women is a transformative experience for both the men and the women. Once again, breaking the silence about the profound impact of violence on our lives offers an experience of healing and empowerment. And, once again, both women and men are eager to embrace a positive vision of men as partners with women in creating healthy families and communities. The idea of building a society of unity and reconciliation is a particularly relevant theme right now in Rwanda. Our observations about what is happening in the country right now is evidence that they have the individual and collective will to make this happen.
On the second day of the training Stencilous Ndandalika from the Zambia Men's Network facilitated a creative adaptation of the "Man in the Box" activity, engaging participants in deciding whether to put certain human characteristics (for example, "being emotional") in the man box or the woman box. After uncomfortably struggling with the dilemmas of these choices, we understood how social expectations force us into these unfair and dehumanizing roles.
On the last day of the training, Stephen Mbati from the Zambia Men's Network and Uduma Uduma from the Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre in Nigeria each gave a presentation about their organizing efforts since the MRI trainings in their countries. Participants from Rwanda listened with great interest to the successes, obstacles and lessons learned. Fidel shared the story of how the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre was born, and a RWAMREC member presented the organization's action plan. It was clear that we were all on this journey together.
In the evening Fidel and his wife Christine invited all of us to their beautiful home just outside of the city. We met their son, Elion, who was born just a week after Fidel returned from the MRI training in Nigeria, as well as Fidel's younger brother Jean Claude, who is completing his last year at university. Sitting outside, listening to the "natural music" of the frogs and crickets from the fields below, looking at the full moon, in this magnificent company, we knew we were blessed.
September 28, 2007: Chief Mrs. Ugo Nnachi: Opening New Frontiers in Rwanda
The Rwandan Training on Engaging Men in Eliminating Gender Based Violence is yet another milestone towards raising a critical mass of men across Africa who pledge zero tolerance on Gender Based Violence.
The workshop was not just enriching and educative, but it also helped participants recreate relationships in their families and communities. The workshop was truly a life-changing experience; it should be experienced by many more people. Realizing that eradication of Gender Based Violence will to a large extent determine the growth of society, both men and women must show concern and commitment towards eradication to guarantee a progressive society.
I am almost certain that, with the inclusion of men's voices in the fight against Gender Based Violence, women's voices will be louder and victory will be achieved. Bravo MRI! Bravo Africa Men's Network on Eradicating Gender Based Violence!
Chief Mrs. Ugo Nnachi
Founder, Ebonyi Men's Resource Center
September 28, 2007: Uduma Agwu Uduma: The Rwanda Workshop is An Eye-Opener
From the time we gathered at the Addis Ababa International Airport, I knew we were about to change history in Africa. The Rwandan training was an opportunity to reunite with Steven, James, Phiri, and Mbati. The MRI family and the African Network were received by Fidel at the Kigali International Airport. What good memories the reunion brought forth!
The training was a very worthwhile experience; I must confess that the Rwandan people are warm, accommodating, and eager to make connections despite the language barrier. The opening ceremony was graced by the Deputy Mayor of Kigali and the Executive Secretary of PROFEM, a women's organization based in Rwanda.
Here I must commend the thoughtfulness of the Rwandan Men's Resource Center, under the leadership of Fidel Rutasiyare, for providing us with interpreters who made the training a huge success. The participants were able to share deeply rooted concerns and the facilitators were down to earth with different dynamics of violence. They imparted to every participant the richness of years of research and experience in the fight against Gender Based Violence and the effort to create healthy families and communities.
I consider this a golden opportunity and feel privileged to have been part of this training on eliminating Gender Based Violence in Rwanda, where the world failed to heed to the cry of a people as they sank into genocide. I hope to come back here someday to see the level of change in Rwandan society that has been achieved by our training in this Country of a Thousand Hills.
Uduma Agwu Uduma
Coordinator, Steering Committee
Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre
September 28, 2007: A Visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial
This morning Fidel met us at the hotel with two cars and the eight of us drove to a restaurant on the outskirts of Kigali. There, overlooking a magnificent view of farmland and hills, we discussed the next steps in the strategic development of Zambian, Nigerian and Rwandan men's initiatives. Topics included the challenges of leadership and staffing, the importance of relationships with women's organizations, and the need for economic sustainability.
As the leaders of these newly developing organizations shared information and advice with each other, we all recognized the significance of these relationships and the value of the support being shared. The idea of an African Men's Network naturally emerged as they explored their collective needs and visions.
In the afternoon, many of us visited the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, a burial place and museum about the 1994 ethnic violence when approximately one million people were killed. The horrors of human violence were painfully portrayed, including exhibits about genocides throughout history. It was a sobering reminder of what we are working so hard to change.
In the evening we all went out for our last dinner together, since Stephen and Stencilous would be returning to Zambia tomorrow. It was truly an honor and a blessing to sit among these courageous and humble pioneers as we celebrated how far they have come and recommitted ourselves to the journey before us.
September 29, 2007: Adieus, a Wedding, and Meetings with Government Officials
Because we did not know when we would have the opportunity to all be together again, this morning was spent in a flurry of discussions, exchanges of digital photos, and expressions of love and commitment among Zambia, Nigeria and the United States. After lunch we bid fond farewells to Stephen and Stencilous as they began their long journey back to Zambia.
Fidel then took Ugo, Uduma, James and me to a wedding ceremony and reception. And after that, we traveled to the home of Theogene (the senior consultant whom we had met the previous week) where he was hosting a party for people involved in a research project he is leading about the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS clubs in schools. Sitting in chairs neatly arranged on the manicured lawn of his magnificent home we met the Minister of Education and other government officials, a representative from the World Bank as well as his team of over 20 young people who conducted the extensive survey throughout Rwanda. (it covered 100% of all secondary and 30% of all primary schools). We were having grateful for this marvelous opportunity to witness a particular dimension of Rwandan society.
September 30, 2007: More Goodbyes, the Gacaca, and Personal Stories Shared
After saying heartfelt goodbyes to Ugo and Uduma who were returning to Nigeria, Fidele drove James, Adin and me to witness a Gacaca, the community court held once a week in every district throughout Rwanda to hear and try cases related to the genocide.
With one of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre members serving as our translator we joined hundreds of Rwandans packed on hard benches and crowded around the perimeters of an open air meeting space (with a roof to protect us from the sun). Sitting together were eight men dressed in pink outfits, the prisoners charged with crimes. The five judges (one woman) called them up singly or in groups to defend themselves, and to cross examine them. People from the community came forward to give their testimonies, as accusers, and witness and to provide other information relevant to the case. The process was slow and deliberate, carefully designed to provide time for everyone to have their say. The cases involved murder, looting and intimidation. When we left after six hours of sitting without a break no judgments had yet been made and half of the cases remained to be heard. Witnessing the intense focus and patience of this community for the entire time, and understanding that this process has been replicated throughout the country for the past several years, we understood in a new way the significance of this truth and reconciliation process.
After returning to the hotel we were met by two training participants who shared with us their personal stories. The woman was orphaned when she was sixteen, and become responsible for caring for her three sisters. A family friend helped her with schools fees to complete secondary school. She was then able to get a job with a coffee cooperative in a rural area. Determined to make a better life for herself, she entered university, commuting into Kigali for a few days each week. She dreams of getting a house for her sisters, becoming a manager at the coffee cooperative, helping to improve the lives of the farmers. She was able to attend the training because of the support from Dean's Bean's Organic Coffee.
The man is one of 18 children from a family that still lives mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His family has no money, but through his powerful commitment to his own education, he is now in his last year at university. He explained that he walks everywhere and goes some days without eating in order to have money for his studies. His final paper will be on the impact of punishments in Gacaca. He has been a dedicated volunteer for the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre and assisted with much of the on-site logistics of the training.
James and I were impressed with the courage of these two people, and went to bed knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of others throughout Rwanda with stories just like them.
October 01, 2007: Preliminary Visits with CARE, and Some Time with IRC and PROFEM
James, Adin and I spent this morning at the headquarters of CARE International where we met with key staff in violence prevention, health and education to prepare for tomorrow's training. We learned more about CARE's commitments to engaging men in these program areas, and they listened eagerly to our descriptions about our experiences in different African countries and Men's Resources International's approach to training and consulting.
In the afternoon, Fidel, James and I visited the International Rescue Committee headquarters, sharing with the executive director and chief officer our experiences with IRC in Liberia, planting the seeds for potential future collaboration with the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre.
Upon returning to the hotel in the evening we joined Adin in a meeting with two leaders of PROFEM, the national network of women's organizations. Agnes Mujawayezu, executive director, had attended the opening ceremonies of the training, and Suzanne Ruboneka, country coordinator for action campaigns, expressed their appreciation and support for the existence of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre and the importance of getting men involved in the efforts to end gender-based violence, They repeatedly embraced the concept of "positive masculinity" as an valuable approach to gender equality. And together we began developing strategizing for most effectively collaborating on social change in Rwanda.
It was another profoundly satisfying day.
October 02, 2007: The CARE Training Begins
Today was the first day of our training on Engaging Men in Ending Violence and Promoting Positive Masculinity with CARE Rwanda. It seems fitting that the United Nations has declared today, which is Gandhi's birthday, International Non-Violence Day.
Recognizing the cross-cutting importance of this training, CARE staff from many different programs in Rwanda were present, as well as CARE staff from neighboring Burundi and Tanzania. Participants also came from other local NGOs, including two from the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre. In all, 25 men and women expectantly gathered in a Kigali meeting hall.
As usual, giving people an opportunity to stand and introduce themselves, with the bamboo pole, is a moving experience. To help set the context for the training, Delphine Pinault, Health & Orphans and Vulnerable Children Sector Coordinator did a presentation on GBV in Rwanda, and Maimouna Toliver, Maternal and Newborn Health Fellow, did a presentation on reproductive health in Rwanda. The following activities brought forward lively discussions about violence, and the group was very interested in exploring the subtle power dynamics in gender relations, such as whether withholding love or sex is a form of violence.
This unique opportunity to talk honestly about these issues among women and men was reflected by the intent eagerness in the room. And the ability to learn and practice these skills with each other was noted as a foundational part of a social and cultural change process.
We ended the day asking participants to place themselves on an agree-disagree continuum in response to a series of questions. It was a beautifully instructive experience to see the range of opinions about who should be responsible for contraception and pregnancy, whether men should defend their honor with force, if necessary, and if a man's word should be the final decision in the home. The honesty and vulnerability is allowing us to support them in learning how to dialogue across differences, and begin to address some of the deepest challenges in the work of engaging men.
October 03, 2007: CARE Training, Day II
The second day of the training focuses on the themes of listening to women's and men's stories, breaking the silence about violence, and understanding the social and emotional dimensions of male socialization. It is a highly emotional process that engages the head, heart and soul.
Men are coached to listen to women and to become vulnerable about their own experiences with violence. Women are supported in their need to be heard and respected by men, and their demand for men as partners in change. Together, we learn how to cultivate this delicate, intimate and profound social change process among ourselves, laying the foundation for taking this work into our families and communities.
In the evening, Adin met with Rwandan students enrolled in the School for International Training program where she teaches (in Brattleboro, Vermont). James and I met with Fidel and Theogene for another expansive brainstorming session about possibilities for collaboration on program development and evaluation, and economic sustainability for the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre. The intersection of our resources and areas of expertise holds many intriguing prospects.
October 04, 2007: The CARE Training Ends with a Goodbye to Rwanda
Today, the last day of the training, focused on deepening the honest dialogue between women and men about the emotional experiences and gender issues raised in yesterday's activities. It is both painful and heartening to watch the group struggle with this process. The powerful commitment to ending violence and creating healthy families in Rwanda was evident as they continued to build a new foundation of trust among themselves.
The action commitments that were generated as a result were deeply personal and very encouraging. Many men said they will be immediately changing the way they are relating to their wives and children. And many women said they will be going home to talk with their husbands about their experiences and needs, and about how to raise their children with more gender equality. Staff from Burundi also committed to bringing Men's Resources International to their country.
As we ended the day with certificates for all participants honoring the work they have done in this training, we knew this was an important step on a long journey. And as we completed the closing ceremony, wrapping the bamboo pole in our multicolored ribbons, and remembered the pole created last week at the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre, and the poles in Zambia and in Nigeria, and the nine poles in communities throughout Liberia, and the one at the MRI office in Springfield, United States, we knew we were witnessing the growth of a movement.
October 05, 2007: Adin Reflects on the Trip to Rwanda
I joined Steven and James' co-facilitation team on this trip as a woman with a background in peacebuilding as well as gender, and several years' experience working in Rwanda. It's been an amazing experience on multiple levels. Taking such a journey together for the first time, two men and a woman, to work with men and women in a culture not our own with issues that have affected all our lives, was a big undertaking. We are flying home as I write, and there is more to look back on than I can describe, so I'll mention only a couple of things.
First, about Steven and James and the work they do as Men's Resources International. They are extraordinary facilitators, distinctly different from each other, each bringing a powerful distinctive perspective. Their work is very emotional, designed to open men to a deep experience of their impact on women, and the way this impact has harmed themselves as well as their loved ones. They honor the experience of men as they simultaneously hold them accountable for their non-awareness of their violence and its impact. My role as it evolved was to weave in aspects of the perspective of peacebuilding, exploring the links between intimate violence and global violence, and the ways violence wounds identity, for example. It was also useful to have me there as a woman, responding as a woman, articulating truths not yet emerging from the women in the group, and working directly with them.
The second striking aspect of Steven and James' work is their commitment to turning it over to the people they're working with right from the beginning. While their engagement with others includes training, the training is a process of lighting a fire (as they say at the beginning, working with head, heart and soul, in order to understand, feel, and believe), with faith that the tinder to keep it going will be found in the room. Thus, each training evolves into a process of discussing next steps in building a grassroots movement with the energy and commitment awakened in the group. They are respectful conveners of this process of planning. In each workshop they share information about similar groups which are working already in other places. Dreams emerge from participants, such as developing an Africa-wide network of groups working to engage men in working with women on gender based violence, with teams on the group who could go when called to new communities.
The work was intense, exciting, fun, and moving, in new ways for me. While I carry questions always about the impact of people like us coming from other countries to "help" in Africa, there's an undeniable hunger for support to address this violence so inherent in culture here, and we bring not so much "expertise" as ourselves as men and women, albeit embedded in our own cultures, to work that has many similarities world wide.
October 09, 2007: Steven On the CARE Training
After packing our bags, we traveled to the CARE office where we met with staff from CARE and representatives from other community organizations who had attended the training for a follow-up strategic planning meeting. We began with a rich discussion about the lessons learned from the training, which produced many valuable ideas about how to apply the MRI approach to engaging men in Rwandan contexts.
The conversation then moved to how to provide follow-up support and accountability for training participants, especially in accomplishing the personal goals that they had committed to on the last day of the training. After discussion about the relationship between personal and professional work, it was decided that an email group will be established, and a check-in meeting with be scheduled in several weeks. One of the men in the meeting reported that last night he had already talked with his wife about the ways he has been abusive, and how he will be changing.
We had to leave the meeting early, because our airplane flight had been rescheduled for an earlier departure time. We look forward to hearing what came out of the discussions about next steps for CARE program development and national networking.
As we left CARE offices with heartfelt good-byes to Delphine, Maimouna, Fidel, Peter, Frederic, Jeannette, André, Kushbu, and Charles, they affirmed their desire for an ongoing consultation from Men's Resources International. We know that they are building a very special collaboration that has the potential for significant impact throughout the country. And we know that we will be back in Rwanda to continue to support this journey.