The Uncommon Man

November 01, 2006

MRI building relationships in Liberia

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am living in a comfortable house in the IRC compound with two men from Kenya and one from Ethiopia who work in the reproductive health and blood donation programs of IRC. The compound has five houses for ex-pats, and IRC staff from other countries. Surrounded by 15 foot cement walls topped with glass shards and rolled barbed wire,. The entrance has large metal gates staffed with 24 hour security. All of our travel in Monrovia is mediated via a staff of drivers in white vans with large radio antennae on the front hood and the IRC logo on the sides.

My day today spanned a huge spectrum of life in Liberia - meeting with the Deputy Minister of Gender in the morning, and a grassroots group of women and of men in a make-shift women's center in the afternoon.

Chicken Soup Factory is a community on the outskirts of Monrovia (named after a business that used to operate in the area). The women's center was constructed by putting woven grass mats over one of the unfinished cinderblock structures that are crowded together in the area. We were welcomed into the room by 35 singing, drumming and dancing women of all ages wearing paper crowns decorated with words challenging domestic violence. Interspersed with songs and a skit, they spoke to us about how they formed their group during the war, and their desire to have men as active partners in their work. As if on cue, a group of 10 men filed into the room, members of Men for Peace, another informal group founded during the war. They all listened intently as Ballah affirmed their vision of women and men working together, and I told them about the pioneering nature of their developing pa rtnership, and described the work of women and men like themselves in Zambia, Nigeria and Rwanda. After the meeting was adjourned Ballah and I met with the men to affirm their commitment and discuss next steps.

It is exciting to be working as a consultant for an organization (IRC) that has developed such a strong foundation of relationships, infrastructure and momentum in their GBV programs. Everyone is eager for and receptive to a male involvement program, and my expertise is being put to good use in advising managers on program development, coaching and mentoring staff on presentation design and facilitation, and inspiring community activists and organizers. I have been paying particular attention to developing staff skills in dialogue between women and men, and emphasizing the importance of practicing with each other. Tomorrow we take another step at the GBV staff meeting.


Steven Botkin
Executive Director
Men's Resources International

Posted by Daniel at November 1, 2006 10:44 AM


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