The Uncommon Man

November 08, 2006

Courage = Compassion: Nigeria Training – Day Two

Everyone walked into the training hall today wearing the “Courage = Compassion” shirts. It was a beautiful sight! We began the day by looking into the eyes and greeting every other person in the room.

A lecture was then presented about gender-based violence and the women’s movement in Nigeria presented by Dr. Emma Abba, State Director of the National Orientation Agency. As the question and answer period progressed, a training participant from the Nigerian Police Force described a case he has been handling of child sexual abuse within a family. James used the opportunity to engage the entire group of support to think together as a community about how to respond.

After tea break, we listened to another lecture by Mr. Austine Nwazunku from the State Action Committee on HIV/AIDS about the connection between HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. Through many examples, he carefully described how the norm for male sexual activity is based on domination and control, and how most women experience sexual coercion and rape. We were moved by his conviction and clarity about how men can learn to base our relationships on love and compassion, and approach sex as a mutual experience of love and shared pleasure.

We used the question and answer period to create the opportunity for men to practice listening to women without interrupting. When asked how to communicate to the women that we really heard what they were saying, many men stood up to pledge their support for ending violence and abuse. I described the three simple statements the women in the Zambia training wanted to hear from men, and in unison, the men spoke - “I hear you. I understand. I am with you.” The comments and expressions on the faces of the women told us that we were on a path of solidarity and healing.

The “Be A Man” activity further engaged the group in a critical analysis of the rules, benefits and costs of the social expectations for masculinity. And the “Journey to Healthy Manhood” story told how a little boy’s natural desire for connection was violated, and how he learned to seek safety and power through domination and disconnection. As several men relayed their own version of this story in their lives, we came to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words on the shirts of everyone in the room: Courage = Compassion.

We concluded this day of training by asking all of the women to stand together holding our bamboo pole. In a circle around them stood the men, one hand on our hearts and one reaching out toward the women in a gesture of support, love and blessing. A closing prayer expressed our commitment and unity in ending violence and creating communities of love.

A large group of us then traveled a few blocks to the Women’s Development Center where we met with the Executive Secretary, Flora O. Awonge. She expressed delight at the vision for an Ebonyi Men’s Resource Center, a commitment to share this idea with the wife of the Governor of Ebonyi State, and an invitation to join the Women’s Day festivities over the next few days.

James and I returned to our hotel filled with awe at the depth and scope of the work we are blessed to be able to do, and with gratitude for all of the wonderful people who are on this journey with us.

— Steven Botkin, Executive Director
— James Arana, Associate Director
Men's Resources International, USA

Posted by Daniel at November 8, 2006 12:16 PM

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