The Uncommon Man

July 14, 2007

Newark Airport en route to Liberia

Greetings from the Newark, New Jersey airport. James and I have a five hour layover en route to Liberia (after another change of planes in Brussels, Belgium). We are returning to Liberia for a third consultation to the International Rescue Committee's Gender-Based Violence (GBV) program.

The relationship between Men's Resources International (MRI) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began last fall. IRC had decided to expand their GBV program to include men, and received a grant from the Irish government to create a Male Involvement Project (MIP). Recognizing that they were in relatively uncharted territory, IRC hired MRI to provide training and technical assistance for this project.

Over the past nine months IRC-Liberia, with support from MRI, has quickly and effectively developed their vision for this project into a unique and exciting initiative that is spreading throughout the country. During the first MRI visit in November 2006 we provided orientation and training for the newly hired MIP officer, Joseph Ballah, assisted the GBV staff in understanding the goals for male involvement, and met with the Ministry of Gender and Development and other key constituencies. The second visit in February 2007 included a three-day staff training, supervision for MIP staff as they conducted similar trainings for newly forming Men's Action Groups (MAGs), a training for community leaders sponsored by the Ministry of Gender and Development, and an interagency workshop for members of the national GBV task group.

Men's Action Groups (MAGs) have now formed in nine communities throughout Liberia, in collaboration with the Women's Action Groups (WAGs) that IRC had already been supporting. Leaders from the MAGs and WAGs began planning a one-week community awareness raising campaign -- Men As Partners in Ending Violence Against Women (MAPEVAW) -- which launched June 25-29 in all three counties (Lofa, Nimba Montserrado). In July, IRC-Liberia hosted a regional exchange visit of IRC/GBV Staff from Sierra Leone & Ivory Coast to see the MIP Project activities to learned new promising practices to be taken back to their respective programs.

James and I are now returning to Liberia to provide follow-up training for GBV staff involved with the Male Involvement Project, to support GBV staff in conducting a monitoring exercise in each of the 9 communities, and to provide consultation for the new GBV Program Coordinator, Navanita Bhattacharya, national GBV Coordinator, Gertrude Garway, and other key constituencies on the development of a longer term prevention strategy.

This is a remarkable opportunity for both Men's Resources International and the International Rescue Committee. Together we are pioneering a model for engaging men in community-based initiatives throughout Liberia for ending gender-based violence. With the vision, leadership and staff support of IRC the men and women involved in this project are developing their awareness, skills and collaborative power to influence the norms and behaviors in a country that is emerging from a devastating history of violence.

We will do our best to keep you updated on this journey with regularly posts (and sometimes photos) on this blog. Thanks for your interest and support!

Posted by Jorge at July 14, 2007 09:40 AM

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