The Uncommon Man

July 25, 2007

A Phone Call from James in Liberia

We received a wonderful phone call this afternoon from James who is still in Liberia. He has just returned to Monrovia from travels to the villages of Karnplay, Saclepea, and Ganta in rural Nimba county. In each community he met with representatives from the mens' and women's action groups, training IRC staff to conduct interviews to assess the impacts of the Male Involvement Project.

The ride to Karnplay, which was supposed to take an hour and a half, actually took twice that long due to washed out roads full of mud and craters. This allowed the IRS staff time to practice their interviewing skills with feedback from James. They worked on adapting the questions to be more easily understood in "Liberian English." They also practiced asking questions in a way that would not be interpreted as threatening or judgmental.

Women and men from groups in all areas gave remarkably consistent and resoundingly positive feedback:

  • Women are feeling safer in their communities
  • Women are feeling more empowered to take actions
  • A number of men have stopped beating their wives and children
  • More girls are going to school
  • Group and community members are refraining from assigning heavy labor to children

A number of men from different communities openly spoke about their past violent behavior -- both verbal and physical -- and their efforts to change. Both women and men said they have witnessed profound changes in their own lives, in their peers, and in their communities.

A number of men spoke about how they had begun sharing domestic duties and responsibilities with their wives that they would not have ever considered in the past:

  • Carrying water
  • Preparing meals
  • Sharing information and decisions about finances

One man in his 60's told about how he was always the king of his household. When he first heard about women's issues, he dismissed it. There is no issue! Slowly he began to listen. Slowly he began to wonder if his wife actually respected and cared about him -- or if she just feared him. While they were walking, he noticed that she was both carrying their child in her arms, and their water on her head. Like always, he carried nothing. The next day, his wife was astounded to see him carrying the water for his own bath. He has also begun to help with preparing food, and helping with other household duties.

Posted by Jorge at July 25, 2007 04:42 PM

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