The Uncommon Man

November 02, 2006

Another Day in Liberia

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This morning the Male Involvement Project was discussed with most of the GBV (Gender-Based Violence) staff, a group of about 30 women and four men. Sitting in rows of benches in the grass covered open air "palava hut", the group had a lively discussion of the pros and cons of including men in the GBV program, and what could be done to address some of their concerns. I watched amazed that I was in Liberia, Africa, listening to women and men, barely one year after the end of a devastating 14 year civil war, talking with passion and wisdom about how to include men in their work to end gender-based violence. It was easy for me to end the morning affirming the pioneering nature of their work.

After a group lunch of rice, and spiced fish and chicken, a small group met to review plans to conduct surveys (adapted from the one we used in Zambia) and focus groups in the three counties being targeted for piloting of the Male Involvement Project.

Then, I was off to the airport (again) to retrieve my suitcase that was lost in transit from the U.S. I have been surviving (quite nicely) with the clothes I arrived in, plus two shirts quickly (and expensively) grabbed in the London airport. However, I was excited to be reunited with my bag, especially as I leave for Nigeria on Friday.

Waiting for the plane to arrive, I struck up a conversation with the IRC driver who took me. Tuni has been driving for IRC for four years and nets $132US per month. He is supporting a family of four, and putting his daughters and wife through school. His father was killed during the war, when he was in 10th grade, so he could not pursue his higher education. He himself was assaulted by rebels during the war, tied up and told he was going to be killed. Thankfully, a senior officer came by and intervened. Tuni was a national soccer star, but the war prevented him from getting out of the country to play internationally. He dreams of going back to school to get a certificate in computer repair, but cannot afford the $200US this would take. In spite of all this, his commitment to his family and his work are strong, and his faith is powerful.

And this is a common story here in Liberia. Everyone has been profoundly traumatized by the war.

Within minutes of my conversation with Tuni, a boy approached me saying "I want somebody to be my friend." Although I was alert for being manipulated or pick pocketed, we started to talk. He tells me that both of his parents were killed in the war, and he is living with the parents of a friend who are abusive to him. He is the captain of his football (e.g. soccer) team. When I ask him why he is looking for a friend, he says "so that somebody will remember me." It was heartbreaking for me to leave him, with a dollar in his hand and a squeeze on the shoulder.

Tomorrow is Liberian thanksgiving. I give thanks for all the blessings of my life.

With a full heart, Steven

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Steven Botkin
Executive Director
Men's Resources International
sdbotkin@mensresourcesinternational.org

Posted by Daniel at November 2, 2006 11:25 AM

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