The Uncommon Man

July 18, 2007

Chicken Soup Factory

This morning we packed 18 people into a small van (not an unusual experience here) and traveled from the IRC office to the community of Chicken Soup Factory (named after the business that was there before the war). We are conducting two days of staff training in the Chicken Soup Factory women's center for the women and men who attended our introductory training in February.

In our previous visits to this women's center it was constructed primarily of grass mats on a cement foundation of a demolished single room structure. Now, a whole new meeting room with a metal roof and plaster walls painted a beautiful blue had been constructed out of what had previously been a front courtyard.

Most of our first day was spent giving staff a variety of opportunities to explore their assessment of the successes and challenges of the Male Involvement Project since its inception eight month age. This staff group, social workers and trainers based in three different Liberian counties separated by 5-9 hours of rough roads, has few opportunities to be together as a team. The discussion, punctuated by pounding rain creating an almost deafening drumming on the roof, was very important to them.

They shared many stories of men and women making real changes in the lives of the women, men and families of their communities. Men are now referring cases of domestic violence and sexual assault to the IRC social workers. Men and women's action groups in collaboration with community leaders are working together to develop and enforce community rules and regulations about family violence. Men are directly approaching men who have been abusive to challenge them on their behaviors, and support them in developing respectful attitudes and behaviors towards women. Women are more confident in their outreach activities, knowing they have male allies in the community.

In June, the Men As Partners to End Violence Against Women (MAPEVAW) campaign mobilized more than 4000 men and women in nine communities using street parades, sports programs, speakers, skits, songs, chants, dancing, posters and stickers. Over 1700 people in Monrovia marched, chanting and singing, several miles to a rally in City Hall. And one of the major cell phone companies in Liberia, Lonestar, sent a text message to 150,000 subscribers reading "Real Men Do Not Abuse Women- Please join the IRC in supporting its campaign on Men AS Partners in Ending Violence Against Women- June 25-29, 2007."

We also heard about a recent regional meeting of IRC GBV staff from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D'Ivoire where the Male Involvement Project was highlighted. Representatives from several of the men's and women's action groups conducted several of the awareness-raising activities they learned from Men's Resources International to demonstrate strategies for male involvement.

Even as we were meeting with the IRC staff, a Regional Interagency Meeting on GBV, including government officials from Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as NGO representatives from IRC, UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance, CVT, CCF, Oxfam, UNFPA, UNHCR and others were sharing strategies for GBV response, intervention and prevention. In radio and newspaper interviews, the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development publicly acknowledged IRC's leadership in involved men in working with women to end gender-based violence.

We ended the day taking Navanita out to dinner at our favorite restaurant with tables literally on the beach, just yards from the surf. We sat under a round thatch roof to protect us from the intermittent rain, learned more about Navanita's previous work in India and Papua New Guinea, and further developed a shared vision for strategic GBV program development in Liberia.

Posted by Jorge at July 18, 2007 12:12 PM


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