The Uncommon Man

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August 30, 2006

Obama publicly takes HIV test to combat stigma in Kenya

This is one of a number of news entries on Senator Obamas website documenting his current travels in Africa.

August 26, 2006

KISUMU, Kenya (AP) - Sen. Barack Obama and his wife took HIV tests before a crowd of thousands Saturday at a clinic in Kenya in an effort to battle the fear and social stigmas that have slowed progress in fighting the spread of AIDS. Thousands of people gathered around the tiny mobile clinic in Kisumu, western Kenya, to see Barack and Michelle Obama tested for the virus that causes AIDS. "If you know your status, you can prevent illness," Obama, the only African-American in the Senate, told the crowd. "You can avoid passing it to your children and your wives."

To read the whole story, click here.

Click here
for more news about Obama's Africa trip.

Posted by Daniel at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

South Africa: Women Celebrate Historic Women's March

Via Feminist Daily News Wire
August 15, 2006

South Africa: Women Celebrate Historic Women's March

In celebration of Women's Day, thousands of South African women re-enacted an historic march through South Africa's capital, Pretoria, on Wednesday. In addition to honoring the 20,000 women who marched against apartheid laws 50 years ago, the march was held in protest of South Africa’s high rate of domestic violence, reports BBC News.

Today in South Africa, women comprise a third of the parliamentarians and 43 percent of the President’s cabinet, and they have made limited gains in the corporate world, according to IRIN News. In spite of advances in gender equality in the past 50 years, South Africa still has high levels of violence against women and one of the highest rates of rape in the world, reports IRIN News.

South African President Thabo Mbeki spoke at the march, saying, “…[W]e must uphold the perspective that none of us is free unless the women of our country are free — free from race and gender discrimination, free from poverty and loss of human dignity, and free from fear and violence,” Business Day reports.

To subscribe to the Feminist Daily News Wire, click here.

Posted by Daniel at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

Senator Obama's Africa Trip

Steven brought this piece to my attention. It’s from Senator Barack Obama’s eNewsletter and website. I have e-mailed the senator, thanking him for his work and telling him about MRI's initiatives in Zambia and Nigeria. (I’ll post any replies from Senator Obama or his office.)

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) will begin his 17-day trip throughout Africa today, including stops in Kenya, South Africa, Congo, Djibouti and with refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. The trip will spotlight important issues facing Africa, such as the spread of AIDS, genocide in Darfur, the prospects for parts of Africa becoming a haven for terrorists and what role America can play in the region.

Read more about the trip here:

For daily updates at with news coverage, photos and audio reports from the Senator, visit:

One detail of his trip that I found particularly interesting:

Obama plans to visit a group of Kenyan women age 50 and older who have adopted children suffering from AIDS and are making a success of it with the help of a "microcredit" program supported by his personal funds from a children's book deal.

The program, with an initial $14,000 Obama investment, enables the women to obtain small loans so they can buy such items as sewing machines or bicycles or crops at market that might enable them to start small businesses.

If you’re interested in receiving updates directly from Barack Obama’s official website, click here.

Posted by Daniel at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2006

Study Shows Men Still Shirk Household Duties

Via Feminist Daily News Wire
August 7, 2006

Women still do 63 percent of the household work, according to data released late last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While women dedicate an average of almost 16 hours per week to household tasks such as cleaning and preparing food, men’s contributions add up to less than ten hours weekly. The data comes from a survey of 13,000 American men and women over the age of 15, who quantified time spent on various activities over an average day – the 24 hours preceding the interview.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) annually for the past three years, and its statistics show men’s and women’s time spent on housework have fluctuated very little over this period. Similar studies administered periodically since 1968 by The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research illuminate longer-term time use trends. Their findings show a dramatic increase in men’s contribution to housework from 1968 to 1985, from 4.4 weekly hours to 10.2, with women’s time allotment declining more than 50 percent over the same period, from 31.9 hours down to 20.4.

Since 1985, however, progress toward gender equality in domestic work has stalled, according to the time use studies, which show a 20-year plateau that continues with the recent ATUS findings. University of Maryland sociologists Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson, and Melissa Milkie analyze this trend in their new book Changing Rhythms of Family Life, published this month. They note that although men’s contribution to household work has not changed significantly in years, both men and women have steadily increased time taking care of children.

Posted by Daniel at 04:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2006

MRI in the news: The Republican

Elizabeth Roman, a reporter from the Springfield Republican, stopped by the office with a photographer to interview MRI staff members, Steven Botkin and James Arana about their recent trip to Zambia.

The article, compete with large color photo, ran in today’s Republican in the Neighborhoods Plus section. It also ran in the Hampshire and Franklin County Plus section earlier this week. It is accessible online at

Since the interview, Elizabeth has remained interested in MRI’s work: reading our blog, keeping in touch, and requesting updates about future programs. Hurray for Elizabeth!

Program helps Africans face fears about AIDs
Wednesday, August 09, 2006

SPRINGFIELD - For three days it was safe for the young men and women of Zambia, Africa, to openly discuss their experiences of violence, and their fears and questions about AIDS, without being chastised or judged.

For them, it was a breakthrough.

"We wanted them to feel safe, and to know that we were not there to judge them," said Steven Botkin, of Pelham, founder and executive director of Men's Resources International, a nonprofit organization based in Springfield that works with men's groups wanting to establish gender equality and "prevent violence and support peace."

Recently Botkin and James Arana, program director, spent 10 days in Zambia on behalf of Men's Resources International, providing gender sensitivity training and raising awareness of reproductive health, HIV and AIDS.

"A man named (Stephen) Mbati was hired by the YWCA in Zambia to create the Zambia Men's Network," explained Arana, who lives in the Florence section of Northampton. "He was feeling isolated and having trouble getting men interested, so he went online and found us through our Web site."

After communicating for more than a year and having Mbati come to the United States to see how theirs and similar organizations are run, Botkin and Arana made the trip to Lusaka, Zambia. Twenty men, including a Nigerian delegate, and four women participated in the training, which was hosted by the YWCA and funded by private U.S. donors.

"These were men between the ages of 19-35 eager to share and hear from the women as well about their experiences with violence," Botkin said. "A lot of the topics we discuss can make people uncomfortable, but this group was more receptive than any group I've ever worked with."

The training included team building, storytelling and other exercises geared toward emotional healing and awareness.

"Many of the problems they face are easy to identify with, but there are also problems that are unique to them,"' Botkin explained.

While domestic violence and gender inequality are major issues there are also problems like a common myth which says if a man has sex with a virgin it will cure AIDS.

"That's actually a significant problem. People have a lot of false information which can be dangerous," Botkin said.

As an opening exercise the participants held a bamboo stick labeled the talking stick. When a person held the stick they could speak freely.

"What we found was that that many of these men have lived through violence. They have seen it with their parents or been part of it with their wives," Arana said. "They know something is wrong, but they don't know what to do about it."

Botkin and Arana said having women in the group made the experience even better.

"In one exercise we put the women in a small circle, and the men in a larger circle around them. The women shared their own experiences with violence, and all the men did was listen," Botkin said. "The three days were full of these powerful moments where people could share their suffering and start to heal."

Arana and Botkin hope to conduct a training session with young men in Springfield in the fall. For more information or to get involved go to or call (413) 214-6797.

Posted by Daniel at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

New comments now posted

My apologies to everyone who has commented on blog entries in the last month or so. You comments were quietly piling up in a hidden corner of the admin site, waiting for my approval. Meanwhile, I was wondering why everyone was so quiet!

With Russell's help, I finally got into the admin section, deleted the avalanche of spam and published the legit comments that were pending.

So -- keep them coming and I'll try to stay on top of posting them in a timely manner.


Posted by Daniel at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

Review of "The Macho Paradox" by Jackson Katz

This thoughtful and specific review came from Men Can Stop Rape's 4th Annual Summer Reading and Viewing Issue of their eNewsletter.

'The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help' by Jackson Katz
reviewed by Pat McGann, MCSR's Communications Director

For those of us who have spent some time in the movement to engage men in preventing men’s violence against women, the content of Jackson Katz’s 'The Macho Paradox' will be very familiar. I don’t mean to suggest that this is bad, especially when you take into consideration that the primary purpose of the book isn’t to serve as a how-to manual providing readers with sample exercises; it is instead a book about the movement. And therein lies its value, I would argue.

Of course Katz’s take on men’s involvement in preventing gender-based violence is Katz’s take, meaning he comes at it from the perspectives and experiences that have defined his work through groups he has initiated like Real Men and Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP). But Katz places his work within a larger context, recognizing the contributions of experts like Alan Berkowitz and organizations like the Family Violence Prevention Fund. So in a very real sense, we can claim that 'The Macho Paradox' is the first historical record of our movement. And Jackson Katz is well qualified to serve as our initial historian, having been involved in gender violence prevention with men and boys since the late 1980s.

The wealth of concrete examples – both from media and from his workshop experiences – conveys just how long Katz has been involved with the issue. The media examples consist of both high profile and lesser known cases – Clarence Thomas on the one hand, for example, Daniel Holland on the other, a man who in the mid-1990s in Massachusetts shot his wife eight times as his eight year old son slept in the next room. In more personal examples he recounts hearing the 'The House of the Rising Sun' as a boy and later realizing the song’s sexism, as well as listening to ten National Football League rookies disclose in a workshop, one of them sobbing openly, that when they were growing up their mothers were battered. This is no abstract, generalized critical examination. Katz grounds his study in an engaging multitude of specifics that ground the issue in everyday realities and complexities, supporting his take on bystander theory and practice, which is intended to move men from the position of passive bystander to social change agent. Clearly, Katz has done his homework.

If I had to judge, however, how equally balanced the book is between its attention to bystander theory and its attention to masculinity, the scales would fall heavily on the side of bystander theory. Katz claims that “one of the most important theoretical contributions of the battered-women’s movement is the insight that men’s abusive behavior in relationships is best understood as a manifestation of a masculinist ideology of power and control” (p. 229), suggesting just how central the topic of masculinity should be to 'The Macho Paradox.' And yet he starts out with statistics about violence against women in chapters one and two, the very strategy he discounts at the end of chapter two as ineffective when trying to reach men. The strategy he upholds in chapter three as most effective for reaching men is to make the subject personal. He’s not referring as much to men’s experiences with masculinity as he’s referring to men’s connections with the women and girls in their lives who are living with the trauma of sexual violence and/or the constant threat of sexual violence. And he’s referring to the boys who have watched their mothers battered and beaten by their fathers. While this is a valuable approach to engaging men, it’s not the only one, and it only reaches those males who know females who have experienced men’s violence against women. An additional strategy would be to explore with men how women and men might benefit from alternative, positive, non-violent, healthy visions of masculinity that challenge the harmful aspects of traditional masculinity. In other words, in addition to addressing bystander theory, I’d like to see Katz more directly take on masculinity, the way he does in his documentary film, 'Tough Guise.'

But perhaps that will happen in another book. Or another history. Let’s all hope there are many more histories to come, from Jackson Katz and others in the movement to end men’s violence against women.

Visit the Macho Paradox website.

Posted by Daniel at 10:31 AM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2006

Something my Father Would Do: Overcoming Legacies of Family Violence

I'm posting the text of an e-mail from The Family Violence Prevention Fund promoting new materials including a documentary DVD, which includes snippets of an interview with MRI's executive director, Steven Botkin!

The video is thoughtful, informative, and hopefull. Please send your requests for free copies of the DVD and/or posters to:

The Family Violence Prevention Fund is proud to present new materials for engaging abusive fathers in renouncing their violence. The free materials include a series of posters and the documentary:

Something my Father Would Do
Overcoming Legacies of Family Violence

The 15-minute documentary, directed by John Badalament (All Men Are Sons), shows the stories of three men from different cultures who grew up with abusive fathers and had to grapple with their own choices as intimate partners and fathers.

Though originally designed for use in supervised visitation centers, it can be effectively utilized in batterers intervention and fatherhood groups, as well as in workshops and community meetings to discuss issues of family violence and fatherhood. Suggested questions to lead a discussion are included.

The three posters, in Spanish and English, invite fathers to think about their legacy to their children with engaging multi-cultural images and open-ended question, such as: You are a role model to your children. Is there anything you would like to change?

Please send your requests for free copies of the DVD and/or posters to:

Posted by Daniel at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

Kenya's new rape laws

Here's a story Steven Botkin spotted on the Feminist Daily News Wire about a recent update to Kenya's laws dealing with sex crimes. Note the disturbing clause that levies the same punishment to false accusers as to convicted rapists.

July 24, 2006

Kenya Toughens Law on Sexual Predators

A new law in Kenya has created stricter punishments for rapists and sexual predators, but has failed to criminalize marital rape and female genital mutilation. The bill, which President Mwai Kibaki approved on July 14, was the first legal recognition of many sex crimes, including gang rape, sexual harassment, and child trafficking. The legislation also outlaws the deliberate transmission of the HIV virus.

The bill comes as a reaction to the rising number of rapes and sexual assaults committed in Kenya. While it is estimated that women are raped every half hour in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Kenya's legal code on sexual crimes has not been significantly changed since 1930.

One of the most contentious issues is a provision in the law that imposes the same sentence on rapists and those who falsely accuse someone of rape. This clause may "deter women from coming forward [and has] shifted the burden of proof in rape cases from the accuser to the accused," according to a statement from the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. Kenyan women's rights activists are especially angered by this provision of the legislation. Says Anne Njogu, director of the Centre for Women's Rights Education and Awareness, according to, "It is the same chauvinistic, paternalistic, very, very parochial attitudes towards women."

Many are skeptical about how effective this new legislation will be in combating the rising incidences of rape. "For many rural women, it will take much more than a new law to change deeply entrenched traditions, where culturally, women have little power," said Jack Nyagaya, a counselor who deals with cases of rape, according to

Posted by Daniel at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

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