The Uncommon Man

November 07, 2006

Nigeria Training – First Day

7 November, 2006

The opening ceremony for the training was attended by a number of notable guests, including the Commissioner for Women’s Affairs of Ebonyi State, who gave the keynote address. I conveyed greetings from the women and men of the United States, especially the MRI board of directors and supporters, and spoke of the global significance of their work in Ebonyi, Nigeria. The dignitaries were delighted when James and I presented them with our training handbooks and “courage=compassion” t-shirts, and Ugo with an MRI certificate of appreciation for her dedication and hard work on behalf of the women and men of Nigeria. We asked the special guests to bless the bamboo pole we would be using as a ritual object throughout the training, and the opening ceremony concluded with lots of photographs being snapped.

The thirty-five training participants (12 women) included social workers, lawyers, police officers, a traditional ruler, a nurse and a doctor. As James launched into the training with his usual skill and passion, he walked around the room making eye contact with each person, inviting them on a journey of violence prevention, positive masculinity, and healthy families and communities. He let them know that our work was not to define this journey for them, but to support them in taking the next steps, and in letting them know that they are not alone.

We described our understanding about the spectrum, types and cycle of violence, and the two root causes of violence – personal and historical trauma, and social permission for acting out power over others. In the enthusiastic discussion that followed both men and women spoke intelligently and vulnerably about their personal experiences, their culture, and their hopes for their communities. They asked the difficult questions about changing traditional culture, sexuality in male-female relationships, and institutionalized violence in governments.

We shared the results of a survey participants had filled out before the training. Even though we all acknowledged that they were not a representative sample of Nigerians, it was inspiring to know that 100% of the men said “It is not okay for a man to hit his wife if she won’t have sex with him,” and “A couple should decide together if they want to have a child,” and “Men should take an active role in ending violence against women.” We suggested that these kinds of responses could form the basis of a social norms marketing campaign to change the understanding about social permission for violence and gender inequality.

After lunch there were more heartfelt discussions about how Nigerian society gives permission for gender-based violence, and the benefits and challenges of engaging men in eliminating GBV. The day concluded with all of the training participants holding and blessing the bamboo pole. The energy and conversations that continued in the room, as well as the written and verbal feedback, told us that we had succeeded in creating an atmosphere of safety and inspiration that would lead to important next steps in the training as well as in their own lives. Ugo and everyone at DOVENET deserve tremendous credit for organizing this event and bringing together key constituencies to participate.

Sitting in the hotel room in the evening with our colleagues from the Zambia Men’s Network and the Rwanda Men’s Resource Center we talked about developments since our June training in Zambia, and the leadership and financial challenges of creating a men’s program. James and I coached them on relationships with women’s organizations, and discussed communications and collaborations with MRI.

When we finally dropped into bed, we were tingling with a deep satisfaction for all of the energy and accomplishments of the day. We send our thanks to you, dear friends, family and colleagues, all over the world who are supporting us in this important work.

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

Posted by Daniel at November 7, 2006 11:01 AM

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