The Uncommon Man

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September 30, 2007

More Goodbyes, the Gacaca, and Personal Stories Shared

After saying heartfelt goodbyes to Ugo and Uduma who were returning to Nigeria, Fidele drove James, Adin and me to witness a Gacaca, the community court held once a week in every district throughout Rwanda to hear and try cases related to the genocide.

With one of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre members serving as our translator we joined hundreds of Rwandans packed on hard benches and crowded around the perimeters of an open air meeting space (with a roof to protect us from the sun). Sitting together were eight men dressed in pink outfits, the prisoners charged with crimes. The five judges (one woman) called them up singly or in groups to defend themselves, and to cross examine them. People from the community came forward to give their testimonies, as accusers, and witness and to provide other information relevant to the case. The process was slow and deliberate, carefully designed to provide time for everyone to have their say. The cases involved murder, looting and intimidation. When we left after six hours of sitting without a break no judgments had yet been made and half of the cases remained to be heard. Witnessing the intense focus and patience of this community for the entire time, and understanding that this process has been replicated throughout the country for the past several years, we understood in a new way the significance of this truth and reconciliation process.

After returning to the hotel we were met by two training participants who shared with us their personal stories. The woman was orphaned when she was sixteen, and become responsible for caring for her three sisters. A family friend helped her with schools fees to complete secondary school. She was then able to get a job with a coffee cooperative in a rural area. Determined to make a better life for herself, she entered university, commuting into Kigali for a few days each week. She dreams of getting a house for her sisters, becoming a manager at the coffee cooperative, helping to improve the lives of the farmers. She was able to attend the training because of the support from Dean's Bean's Organic Coffee.

The man is one of 18 children from a family that still lives mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His family has no money, but through his powerful commitment to his own education, he is now in his last year at university. He explained that he walks everywhere and goes some days without eating in order to have money for his studies. His final paper will be on the impact of punishments in Gacaca. He has been a dedicated volunteer for the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre and assisted with much of the on-site logistics of the training.

James and I were impressed with the courage of these two people, and went to bed knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of others throughout Rwanda with stories just like them.

Posted by Jorge at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2007

Adieus, a Wedding, and Meetings with Government Officials

Because we did not know when we would have the opportunity to all be together again, this morning was spent in a flurry of discussions, exchanges of digital photos, and expressions of love and commitment among Zambia, Nigeria and the United States. After lunch we bid fond farewells to Stephen and Stencilous as they began their long journey back to Zambia.

Fidel then took Ugo, Uduma, James and me to a wedding ceremony and reception. And after that, we traveled to the home of Theogene (the senior consultant whom we had met the previous week) where he was hosting a party for people involved in a research project he is leading about the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS clubs in schools. Sitting in chairs neatly arranged on the manicured lawn of his magnificent home we met the Minister of Education and other government officials, a representative from the World Bank as well as his team of over 20 young people who conducted the extensive survey throughout Rwanda. (it covered 100% of all secondary and 30% of all primary schools). We were having grateful for this marvelous opportunity to witness a particular dimension of Rwandan society.

Stencilous Presenting Zambia Mug

Posted by Jorge at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2007

A Visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial

This morning Fidel met us at the hotel with two cars and the eight of us drove to a restaurant on the outskirts of Kigali. There, overlooking a magnificent view of farmland and hills, we discussed the next steps in the strategic development of Zambian, Nigerian and Rwandan men's initiatives. Topics included the challenges of leadership and staffing, the importance of relationships with women's organizations, and the need for economic sustainability.

As the leaders of these newly developing organizations shared information and advice with each other, we all recognized the significance of these relationships and the value of the support being shared. The idea of an African Men's Network naturally emerged as they explored their collective needs and visions.

In the afternoon, many of us visited the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, a burial place and museum about the 1994 ethnic violence when approximately one million people were killed. The horrors of human violence were painfully portrayed, including exhibits about genocides throughout history. It was a sobering reminder of what we are working so hard to change.

In the evening we all went out for our last dinner together, since Stephen and Stencilous would be returning to Zambia tomorrow. It was truly an honor and a blessing to sit among these courageous and humble pioneers as we celebrated how far they have come and recommitted ourselves to the journey before us.

Uduma of Nigeria and Elias of Rwanda

Posted by Jorge at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

The Rwanda Workshop: An Eye-Opener

From the time we gathered at the Addis Ababa International Airport, I knew we were about to change history in Africa. The Rwandan training was an opportunity to reunite with Steven, James, Phiri, and Mbati. The MRI family and the African Network were received by Fidel at the Kigali International Airport. What good memories the reunion brought forth!

The training was a very worthwhile experience; I must confess that the Rwandan people are warm, accommodating, and eager to make connections despite the language barrier. The opening ceremony was graced by the Deputy Mayor of Kigali and the Executive Secretary of PROFEM, a women's organization based in Rwanda.

Here I must commend the thoughtfulness of the Rwandan Men's Resource Center, under the leadership of Fidel Rutasiyare, for providing us with interpreters who made the training a huge success. The participants were able to share deeply rooted concerns and the facilitators were down to earth with different dynamics of violence. They imparted to every participant the richness of years of research and experience in the fight against Gender Based Violence and the effort to create healthy families and communities.

I consider this a golden opportunity and feel privileged to have been part of this training on eliminating Gender Based Violence in Rwanda, where the world failed to heed to the cry of a people as they sank into genocide. I hope to come back here someday to see the level of change in Rwandan society that has been achieved by our training in this Country of a Thousand Hills.

Uduma Agwu Uduma
Coordinator, Steering Committee
Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre

Uduma Agwu Uduma

Posted by Jorge at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Opening New Frontiers in Rwanda

The Rwandan Training on Engaging Men in Eliminating Gender Based Violence is yet another milestone towards raising a critical mass of men across Africa who pledge zero tolerance on Gender Based Violence.

The workshop was not just enriching and educative, but it also helped participants recreate relationships in their families and communities. The workshop was truly a life-changing experience; it should be experienced by many more people. Realizing that eradication of Gender Based Violence will to a large extent determine the growth of society, both men and women must show concern and commitment towards eradication to guarantee a progressive society.

I am almost certain that, with the inclusion of men's voices in the fight against Gender Based Violence, women's voices will be louder and victory will be achieved. Bravo MRI! Bravo Africa Men's Network on Eradicating Gender Based Violence!

Ugo Nnachi
Ebonyi Men's Resource Center

Ugo Nnachi

Posted by Jorge at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Steven Writes As The Rwanda Training Ends

The training ended today. There is no doubt that the lives of the 40 participants have been changed. Once again, men learning how to listen to women is a transformative experience for both the men and the women. Once again, breaking the silence about the profound impact of violence on our lives offers an experience of healing and empowerment. And, once again, both women and men are eager to embrace a positive vision of men as partners with women in creating healthy families and communities. The idea of building a society of unity and reconciliation is a particularly relevant theme right now in Rwanda. Our observations about what is happening in the country right now is evidence that they have the individual and collective will to make this happen.

On the second day of the training Stencilous Ndandalika from the Zambia Men's Network facilitated a creative adaptation of the "Man in the Box" activity, engaging participants in deciding whether to put certain human characteristics (for example, "being emotional") in the man box or the woman box. After uncomfortably struggling with the dilemmas of these choices, we understood how social expectations force us into these unfair and dehumanizing roles.

On the last day of the training, Stephen Mbati from the Zambia Men's Network and Uduma Uduma from the Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre in Nigeria each gave a presentation about their organizing efforts since the MRI trainings in their countries. Participants from Rwanda listened with great interest to the successes, obstacles and lessons learned. Fidel shared the story of how the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre was born, and a RWAMREC member presented the organization's action plan. It was clear that we were all on this journey together.

In the evening Fidel and his wife Christine invited all of us to their beautiful home just outside of the city. We met their son, Elion, who was born just a week after Fidel returned from the MRI training in Nigeria, as well as Fidel's younger brother Jean Claude, who is completing his last year at university. Sitting outside, listening to the "natural music" of the frogs and crickets from the fields below, looking at the full moon, in this magnificent company, we knew we were blessed.

Fidel and his wife Christine

Presenting the RAMREC Action Plan

Rwandan Hills and Fields

Posted by Jorge at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2007

James on Day Two of the Training: From Sun Up To Sun Set

As I stated before, I got up with call to prayer and did not put my head down until midnight. After our planning session for the final day of training. We -- Steven, Adin and I -- were struggling to keep our eyes open, but knew that we could not end the day without processing our work together.

We resolved to wake up early to get to the training site by 8:30 A.M. to start at 9:00 A.M. sharp. We were continually trying to figure out what we would not be able to squeeze in, and have to let go, trusting that we would be able to tie it in somewhere else. We paid close attention to the way we were working together with the four facilitators (from Nigeria and Zambia) who we invited in to this process, and discussed the areas of the training where we were not feeling supported or connected.

The day was a whirlwind, with a catch-up pace from the beginning. We acknowledged that the participants were fully engaged, connecting with each other, challenging each other, and grasping the concepts well. What more could we ask for? Well, for one thing, we would have liked to recover the extra hour we lost by ending the day at 4:00 P.M. We agreed that the participants were hungry for more details on every topic area we were sharing. The four participants from the Coffee Cooperative were asking when we would be back to provide the training to their group, convinced that further work would help their community.

We had a great meeting that lasted four-plus hours with a Rwandan consultant who had recently drafted national policy guidelines for the Ministry of Gender. He listened with great interest to Chef Ugo Nachi of Nigeria describing the impact of the training in her country, and began to envision strategies for measuring impact, sustainability, and replicability. To say that we welcomed Mr. Gakuba's perspective would be an understatement. We left that meeting knowing that our day would not be complete until our planning session and fill-ins were complete, certificates for the participants signed, calls made home, and blogs emailed.

Training Participants

Cultural Group at Closing Ceremonies

Posted by Jorge at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2007

Steven Writes about the First Day of the Rwanda Training

This morning Fidel transported us to the training venue, Club Mamans Sportif. The opening ceremony for the training included remarks from the executive director of PROFEM, the national network of women's organizations, and an executive secretary for women's affairs in the city of Kigali.

Our inability to speak Kinyarwanda or French required translation throughout the training. Although this slowed down the process, the ability to speak in their own language contributed to a comfort in self-expression and openness that made this day a success.

After the 30 participants introduced themselves the day included discussions about the violence, presentations by Chief Ugo Nnachi of Nigeria and Stencilous Phiri of Zambia about gender-based violence in their countries, and the obstacles to engaging men on these issues.

We ended the day affirming that a belief in men's natural caring and compassion is central to MRI's strategy for male involvement in violence prevention.

Participants expressed encouragement and hope as they left the first day of training. One young man, who lost his father when he was five, spoke beautifully about being ready to be married, but confused about these issues -- "I wonder if I should wait until we have created more gender equality."

Adin Discusses a Point with a Participant

Music is Always a Feature
in MRI's African Trainings

Posted by Jorge at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

James Describes the First Day of Training in Rwanda

This morning, I got up with the 5:00 A.M. call to prayer and I felt so rested after a physically grueling day yesterday. The eighteen-hour flight on three different planes and several time zones threw me for a loop. After all that time of confinement and body restriction I got up yesterday about 4:00 A.M., and knew I had to get up and move my body. I left the room at daybreak to admire the kaleidoscope of colors painted across the sky.

The view of Rwanda from our hotel balcony is just stunning. This is called the land of a thousand hills and aptly so. I wanted to go jogging but was intimidated by all the hills. You cannot walk too far with out walking up or down a substantial hill, so I decided to take a walk to find a park for a round of Tai Chi and some karate. My body was calling out to be stretched. I found a nice landing overlooking some fields that was ideal for meditation and practice. As I stretched and moved, my body screamed out for more. After an hour and a half, my body was singing and I thanked God for the gift of movement and the opportunity to be here in this sacred land with so much history. I was now ready for the day ahead.

When I got back to the room Steven was doing his Tai Chi. We acknowledged each other with a smile and I got ready for breakfast and our planning for our first day of training. At the breakfast table Adin, Steven, and I marveled at our being here with our brothers and sisters from Nigeria and Zambia.

We all were breaking bread this morning after converging yesterday at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to board the flight for Kigali to meet our brother Fidel. The airport erupted with joy when we saw each other. To see Stanislaus, Stephen, Uduma and Ugo all with great big smiles and open arms was a great delight. We hugged, kissed and beamed with each others' smiles.

Of course it was a nail-biting experience waiting on the seemingly motionless line to get to the other side where we would see if we would all be on the same flight. Our African friends had spent the night in Addis and got to the airport hours before we did. We did make it onto the same flight, but what was supposed to be a one-hour trip took two-plus hours because of the local stops. The extra time was nothing compared to what had come before: we traveled from Bradley airport in Connecticut to the Washington, D.C. airport, to Rome, to Addis Ababa, to Kenya, and on to Kigali, with three airplane changes. To say that I needed to feel solid ground under my feet would be an understatement.

Yesterday's training was a great success. There were at least 28 participants. A few dignitaries gave their blessings and we began to get to know our new brothers and sisters. As usual, there was not enough time to get in all we wanted because of the need for translation. We spent extra time trying to make sure that our thoughts and concepts were being understood. It was beautiful to see how sensitive, patient and caring the two translators were. It was fascinating to observe their struggle to try and capture certain concepts in Kinyarwandi.

By the end of the day I was super-tired and needed a nap. I was able to get a strong hour and a half nap and was good to go for the rest of the evening.

I am looking forward to a new day of training.

James With the Ceremonial Pole

Blessing the Pole at the End of Day One

Posted by Jorge at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2007

Steven Reflects on the Arrival in Rwanda

Yesterday passed by in a blur of plane flights (landings in Rome, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and, finally Kigali).

Returning to Africa is a deeply emotional experience for us in many ways. The reunion with our friends and colleagues from Zambia, Nigeria and Rwanda was joyous after the last 10 months of communication and support via email and phone. Rwanda truly is "the land of 1000 hills." The city, carpeting the hills, is bustling with life. Evidence of reconstruction and development is everywhere. The legacies of ethnic conflict and genocide are not visible to us newcomers.

After settling into our rooms (with a breathtaking balcony overlooking the eastern hills of Kigali), and taking a much needed shower, we met with staff from CARE International in our hotel restaurant (a veranda with another spectacular view) to make arrangements for next week's training and consultation. Delphine and Maimouna were delighted at the timing of the connection with Men's Resources International, as they are launching new programs where male involvement will play a critical role.

We then moved to another table where members of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre executive committee had gathered to welcome us to Rwanda. We were impressed with the social stature of the men Fidel has recruited, and their excitement about the MRI training.

After dinner, we gratefully and quickly went to bed.

Stencilous Ndandalika from Zambia

Fidel (Rwanda) and Ugo (Nigeria)

Posted by Jorge at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2007

Reunion of colleagues from Zambia Men's Network and Ebonyi MRC in Addis Ababa airport.


Training Participants Introducing Themselves

Discussion During the Training

More Training Participants

Posted by Jorge at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2007

Steven Writes En Route to Rwanda

Dear Friends,

James, Adin and I are 3900 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, on our way to Rwanda. It's a 20 hour journey (with a refueling stop in Rome and a change of planes in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).

In Addis, we will meet our colleagues from the Zambia Men's Network, Stephen Mbati and Stencilous Phiri, who will join us for the trip to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). We will also be joined in Rwanda by our colleagues from the Ebonyi Men's Resource Centre in Nigeria, Ugo Nnachi and Uduma Uduma. We will be met in Rwanda by our colleague Fidel Rutayisire, founder and chairman of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre.

We are gathering again (having been together in Nigeria last November) to conduct our training on engaging men in ending gender-based violence for members of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre (RWAMREC) and others from the community. And to continue to build the network of connection and support among men and women in Africa who are doing this work. We are excited and humbled by the opportunity to continue to support these initiatives Men's Resource International has helped to launch over the past year and a half.

The challenges are daunting -- centuries of violence and oppression, cultural legacies of patriarchy, extreme pervasive poverty, lack of funding for programs. And yet, these leaders have committed themselves to pursuing the vision of building networks of men allied with women for ending violence and promoting positive masculinity.

Our three-day training, funded completely by individual donors to Men's Resources International, will include more than thirty Rwandans (in addition to the international delegates). With support from Dean's Beans Organic Coffee Company, four representatives from "up-country" coffee cooperatives will be attending. Following the training we will facilitate a strategic planning meeting with members of the RWAMREC board of directors.

During our second week in Rwanda, James, Adin and I will conduct a similar training and consultation with CARE International staff who are eager to develop male involvement in their violence prevention and reproductive health programs.

We will do our best to keep you updated on these experiences through regular blog entries, and photographs. You can send us your thoughts and blessings by posting comments on this weblog or emailing us at On behalf of all of us gathering in Rwanda, we thank you for your interest and support.

In faith, Steven

View of Kigali from Hotel Balcony

Representatives of the Rwandan Coffee Cooperatives
Sponsored to Attend the Training by
Dean's Beans Organic Coffee

Another Participant from the Rwandan Coffee Cooperatives

Posted by Jorge at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2007

Rwanda: The Journey Begins

Associate Director James Arana, who with Executive Director Steven Botkin leaves for Rwanda on Sunday, September 23, writes:

Our journey to Rwanda started during a meeting in the Haymarket Café in Northampton Mass. where we handed over some copies of our brand new, hot-off-the-press MRI brochure to Adin Thayer of the Karuna Center. Adin was leaving for one of her many trips to Rwanda and asked if we would like her to pass out our brochures. A few months later, Fidèle Rutayisire of Rwanda emailed MRI to get information on how to start a men's center and the communication never ceased. Fidèle did his research and, after long emails and phone consultations with MRI, assembled his potential board members together and the Rwanda Men's Center was born. Six months later, Fidèle joined us in Nigeria for an MRI training.

What a pleasure it was to meet Fidèle after months of email and phone conversations! He, along with 35 other Nigerians, Zambians, and MRI staff from the Americas, embarked on a rigorous training to help bring everyone together around the work of supporting African men to end gender-based violence.

So, to say that we are excited to be going to Rwanda is an understatement. The realization that I'm going back to Africa, the motherland, is overwhelming. This trip is important to MRI because to support a people and a country that has gone through so much harrowing violence over its recent past is an honor. We've listened to Fidèle, joined in his work to form the Rwanda Men's Center, and, though there's much yet to be done, we join in his pride of the accomplishments so far.

You can follow our progress in Rwanda by visiting this blog during the time that we are there. We invite you to share in the exhilarating development of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre.

Steven, James, and Adin with Colleagues
from Zambia and Nigeria

Adin Thayer, MRI Associate Trainer

Posted by Jorge at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2007

U.Va. Men Teaching Local Boys: M is for Many Ways of Being Masculine

From the University of Virginia publication, UVa Today, submitted by Claire N. Kaplan.

"My father, brother, grandfather and uncles taught me culture, pride, a sense of moral conduct."

"My father taught me a man can fill most any role and do it in his own style."

"Violence has a negative impact on men's lives, as well as women's."

These comments come from members of a new men's group formed at the University of Virginia, the Men's Leadership Project. Its mission: to pair undergraduates with local fifth-grade boys and offer them a different kind of mentoring based upon openness about what it means to be a man. Its chief goal is to reduce violent behavior toward women.

Men who are activists for preventing violence against women say the problem needs to be addressed on several different levels of society and culture, said Claire Kaplan, director of the U.Va. Women's Center's Sexual and Domestic Violence Services, where the program is housed.

The Men's Leadership Project is a program just for guys. Christopher Wilcox Elliott, who works part-time in the Dean of Students Office in Fraternity and Sorority Life, is leading the new effort to offer alternative role models to the ones displayed in the media and other places.

"We don't say we have answers," Wilcox Elliott said, "but we show there is a wide range of ways to be a man." He wants to build upon the success of other kinds of mentoring programs by adding social change to the importance of community.

The program, which also includes a for-credit course, will give young males a chance to talk about what it means to be a boy or man and to be themselves as individuals, how and where they learn about being male and how that relates to how they feel and act. The program will give the college men an opportunity to take leadership roles and show the boys how to focus on gender awareness and how to be comfortable about it around other males.

"Gender identity refers to how you perceive and express yourself in masculine and feminine terms," Wilcox Elliot said.

"Boys and men rarely get to talk about gender," Kaplan said.

"Why is violence considered normative for men? It has a negative impact on men's lives, as well as women's," added Wilcox Elliott, who joined his first men's group in college, working on sexual assault and violence prevention.

The program won't be focusing on sexual violence prevention in the context of dating relationships -- the fifth-graders aren't old enough to talk about that, Kaplan noted. But they are old enough to think critically.

"Crime and violence are gendered. They're all about claiming power and status by aggressive means," Wilcox Elliott said. Furthermore, the idea of what it means to be a man so often looks like a twisted depiction of hyper-masculinity these days, he said.

Wilcox Elliott, a doctoral student in the Curry School of Education's social foundations program, said the program will explore more of the positive aspects of masculinity, including ideas about being a good friend, a good partner, being responsible for your actions, supporting and valuing family, and other ways of earning respect.

Education professor Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist in the Curry School who specializes in working with teenagers, said, "Being a young adolescent boy can be very difficult. Many boys lack appropriate models for how to interact with the world around them. It is in the nature of their developmental agendas, however, that they need not just models, but support as well. This project can provide [that] support and also teach older adolescents and young adults how to mentor and lead in their world."

"I hope these sorts of mentoring and support approaches become contagious in our society," said Sheras, the author of several books, including Your Child: Bully or Victim?

With the help of the Michael Mason, a guidance counselor at Walker Upper Elementary School, the project has also received the support of parents, who will meet with the group several times this year.

The first cohort of 13 undergraduates in the Men's Leadership Project went through a semester-long training last spring. Elliott said he watched them become more open, honest and critical over their time together.

"Learning about the variety of other influences on our identity and how to incorporate those into a sense of self has been challenging and hugely rewarding," said one of the students, Patrick Cronin, who lives on the Lawn and is president of One in Four, a college men's group focused on preventing and responding to sexual assault.

Third-year student Carlos Oronce said one of the most significant things he has learned about being a man is that gender is omnipresent and requires constant consideration.

"That is, we should be respectful, be polite, and take care of the ones whom we care about, but that does not entitle us (men) to assume a general sense of ignorant benevolence or feelings of superiority, whether or not they are intended," said Oronce, a biochemistry major and president of the Asian Student Union.

Being part of a large extended family has provided Oronce with several role models, he said.

"My male identity was shaped significantly by my father, brother, grandfather and uncles. They all provided me fundamental lessons on the numerous relationships we have -- father and son, uncle and nephew, or brother and older brother -- how to act in these relationships and how to interact with others. They taught me culture, pride, a sense of moral conduct."

Cronin, a fourth-year double major in economics and African-American and African Studies, had a different experience. During his high school years, his father retired and stayed home to take care of the household and three boys while his mother worked in the traditionally male occupation of financial services.

"His example for those years left an indelible mark on how I define manhood," said Cronin.

At the same time, he said he learned being a man is to challenge oneself.

"My father taught me not to fear failure, but to fear not trying. Understanding that a man can fill most any role and do it in his own style was important for me as a teenager," Cronin said. "It is a lesson I hope my little brother learns over the course of his life, and I want to be a part of that learning."

The U.Va. mentors are not just founding members of the Men's Leadership Project. They are students in Wilcox Elliott's class, "Leadership Development and Mentoring with Adolescent Boys," an education course with a service-learning component. In the University's tradition of student self-governance, students contribute to the course content and facilitate group sessions. They are conducting pre- and post-surveys with the boys. Together with Wilcox Elliott, they evaluate how the program is going week by week.

If the program is successful and expands, they hope to open it to all boys, Kaplan said, "because all boys are at risk for violence whether they are privileged or not."

Ten years ago, the Women's Center created a similar program for girls, the Young Women Leaders Program, that has been highly successful.

Posted by Jorge at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2007

Early Registration for Roots of Change Conference ends Sept 21

The early registration deadline for the Roots of Change: Preventing Sexual Violence Through Partnerships and Action conference is fast approaching!

Submit your registration by Friday, September 21st to receive the reduced conference fee.

Information and online registration is available at

Roots of Change Preventing Sexual Violence Through Partnerships and Action

A conference for prevention, health promotion and other professionals working in the areas of:

  • sexual violence
  • dating/domestic violence
  • family violence
  • child abuse
  • youth violence
  • pregnancy prevention
  • STI/HIV prevention
  • substance abuse prevention
  • women's health
  • youth development
  • community development

Special conference tracks for:

  • college/university professionals
  • male allies who want to enhance their knowledge and skills
  • service providers working with people with developmental disabilities


  • Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men
  • Jan Hindman, author of There is No Sex Fairy - To Protect Our Children From Becoming Sexual Abusers
  • Nora Baladerian, Director of the Disability, Abuse and Personal Rights Project
  • Rus Ervin Funk, author of Reaching Men: Strategies for Preventing Sexist Attitudes, Behaviors, and Violence

Brie Akins
Prevention Program Coordinator
Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force
93 Van Buren Street
Eugene, OR 97402
P: 541.284.8275
F: 541.343.0316

we can end sexual violence

Posted by Jorge at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2007

Newly-Enhanced Prevention & Education Areas

VAWnet has significantly enhanced the content, structure, and utility of the Prevention & Education information on our website. These special collections of selected materials on prevention theory, models, and approaches for raising awareness and increasing community engagement to end violence against women are now located within the Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence areas of VAWnet. The materials included provide a broad range of information and tools to support advocates' prevention and education efforts.

Access the enhanced areas at:


  • Prevention: This area features theories and practices that promote the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. Prevention approaches are designated as primary, secondary, and/or tertiary in nature, and "model" or "promising" programs, curricula, and initiatives are identified. Evaluation materials are provided to help guide evidence-based, cost-effective prevention efforts. Subsections include: Theory & Research, Practice, and Evaluation.
  • Education: This area includes strategies for raising awareness and
    increasing community engagement to end domestic and sexual violence.
    Specific campaigns and initiatives are identified, in addition to
    outreach strategies and materials for training individuals to
    identify, prevent, and respond to violence against women in various
    settings. Several kits and tools are provided. Subsections include:
    Raising Awareness & Increasing Engagement: Campaigns & Initiatives,
    Training, Outreach, and Kits & Tools.
  • DVAM/SAAM: This section provides access to the National Domestic
    Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month
    (SAAM) websites, offering a variety of resources including campaign
    ideas and materials, activities and resources, and calendars of local

Direct links:

As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Casey Keene
VAWnet Resource Coordinator

Posted by Jorge at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2007

Married Couples Split Housework Less Evenly than Cohabitating Couples

via Feminist Daily News Wire
September 4, 2007

A new study reveals a considerable difference in how cohabitating couples and married couples divide housework responsibilities. The international study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and George Mason University and published in the September edition of the Journal of Family Issues, finds that cohabitating couples tend to split household chores more equitably than married couples. Even though the study did not track cohabitating couples who made the transition to married life, the results suggest that "marriage alters the division of labor in a household," even when both people in a marriage express egalitarian attitudes towards women and men, according to a press release from North Carolina State University.

Within marriages, the study finds that women do about twice as much housework as men, even after adjusting for employment status and other factors. While men living with their partners do more housework than married men, women still shoulder the burden of household chores.

Researchers in the study suggest that traditional views around marriage could affect how men and women divide domestic responsibilities. A couple living together may feel "a little more free to divide the housework the way they want to divide it, rather than the way society expects them to divide it," said Dr. Theodore Greenstein, one of the study's authors. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, told USA Today, "Cohabiting couples see themselves in more of a 'you do your part and I'll do mine' roommate relationship."

Media Resources: Journal of Family Issues 9/07; North Carolina State News Services 8/30/07; USA Today 8/30/07

Posted by Daniel at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2007

Women's Equality, Men's Liberation

Women's Equality, Men's Liberation
By Rob Okun, executive director
Men's Resource Center for Change

A version of this editorial originally appeared as "Men Also Share Fruits of Women's Equality Day" in the online publication WomensEnews (

On August 26, 1920, 72 years after the struggle had begun, women in the U.S. had at last won the right to vote. Eight days earlier, suffragist (Anita) Lili Pollitzer, a 25 year-old activist, had successfully persuaded Tennessee state legislator Harry T. Burn, 24, to cast the deciding vote. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally the law of the land and the nation's 26 million voting-age women were at last enfranchised. Woman Suffrage Day (now named Women's Equality Day), beyond commemorating the date women succeeded in getting the right to vote, also symbolizes women's ongoing quest for equality. While acknowledging that pivotal anniversary, the day can be more than only a celebration for women. It affords men a chance to learn from women's struggle for independence valuable tools we can apply to our own liberation.

If we're willing to honestly examine our long held fear of powerful women--and the false notion that we lose some of our power as women gain more of theirs -- there's much for men to learn from Women's Equality Day. Not the least of which is a direction for leading rewarding lives, including understanding our inner world more profoundly.

In this arena, women have long led the way. If that's a problem for some of us guys, well, it's time for us to get over it. Healthy leadership knows no gender.

Four decades ago, when women began renewing their demand for self-determination and freedom across the board--including the ongoing process of examining all female roles in society--they uncovered a silver lining of independence from which men can benefit too.

But first we have to unflinchingly examine our fears. Many of us have felt confused, unsure, angry and threatened by the gains women have made. In some households, being supplanted as top wage earner has triggered men's insecurity; in others, it's been women returning to school to finish a long-delayed degree. Some men feel they're paying a steep price for sharing power: not just losing control but also self-respect.

What a set up. For healthy men, sharing power can have such a healing, eye-opening upside: offering us an opportunity to lighten the load of responsibility so many of us still feel we have to carry.

Danger Lurks
Danger lurks, though. Many unhealthy men, too shut down to examine their own lives, may cross the line, exhibiting controlling, even abusive behaviors. These behaviors must be confronted.

Some believe the advances women have made--increased job and career opportunities, improved wages, better child care--have come at men's expense, as if freedom and independence were finite: "If she has it, then I've lost it," the thinking goes. Truth is, liberation is like love: there's an infinite supply.

Instead of men feeling resentful about the gains women have made, we might study women's accomplishments and apply what we learn to our own lives.

For instance, many women have been public about their struggle to balance the world of work and career with that of relationship and child rearing. The public conversation about the "mommy track" may be a difficult one for women, but it reminds women they are not alone.

Sadly, men wrestling with those same issues usually do so in private, too often silent and isolated. In groups I've facilitated and with individual men I've counseled, I've heard the same refrain: "I was always too ashamed to talk about it."

Unsympathetic supervisors have frowned upon, or have been outright hostile to, men who tried to organize their work schedule in order to make the game, the recital, the doctor's appointment. As a result, many spoke about the despair they felt, the lack of support. Some described developing physical conditions that seemed to develop out of their inner condition: high blood pressure, depression, even suicidal thinking.

Sharing Stresses
For many men, the idea that sharing with others the stresses they were carrying could actually play a crucial role in shifting their experience had never occurred to them.

The world inhabited by my three daughters--29, 26, and 22--and son, 19, has been informed by the struggle for equality women have been waging since before they were born. They've all benefited greatly from their mothers' many acts fierce acts of independence. That one daughter is in Tibet right now working on a film about Buddhist nuns, that another just completed an emergency medical technician certification training in Montana, and that the third is in North Carolina beginning a nurse practitioner graduate program speaks volumes about what women can achieve.

Does their younger brother, a college sophomore, feel undermined by their stepping into the big, wide world, arms flung open, reaching for the sky? Hardly. He's inspired. Just as I am. He knows there is room for him to think big, too. He freely acknowledges how their many trips, when he was in elementary, middle school and high school to Asia, the Middle East, and Central and Latin America, emboldened him to begin his own international travels.

Like many men, I've backed away from admitting the fear and vulnerability I've sometimes felt navigating my life. Long before I began finding strength and hope, wisdom and love, friendship and healing, in the company of men, I found it with women: women in the anti-war movement in Washington, D.C., in the late '60s; strong leaders in the anti-nuke movement in the '70s, proponents of feminist political art in the '80s. Their uncompromising honesty all contributed significantly to my learning how to open up to myself.

I didn't have the language for it at the time but women were modeling a kind of courage I was hungry for, going for a full life without limits.

Men Join the Celebration
It's fitting that men join a celebration of the 19th Amendment that the suffragist movement left to the world 87 years ago.

While we're celebrating, let's include a generous dollop of hope for what's possible for our sons, too.

So thank you, sisters, for being unwilling to accept the restricted lives society imposed on you for so long. Thank you for setting no limits for who you could become. Thank you for articulating the link between the civil rights and the women's rights movements. Thank you for expanding that link to include so many other vital causes, from gay and transgender rights to environmental justice and immigrant solidarity; to name just a few. Thank you for your leadership in the anti-war movement, then and now. You are an inspiration.

As important as Women's Equality Day is in marking what women have accomplished, there is still a long way to go.

Yet as a powerful symbol for men to consider, it raises a question: Can men commit to appreciating women's lives and women's leadership on more than just this one day? Absent our fears, jealousies and unfulfilled longings for connection, can we unabashedly commemorate this holiday and, in the process, open to our own possibility, our own questions?

I hope so. For those of us who can, we will be well on our way to celebrating our own Independence Day.

For more information:

National Women's History Project

Millions of Women Still Fail to Cast Ballots

National Women's Hall of Fame

Rob Okun is Executive Director of the Men's Resource Center for Change and Editor of Voice Male. He can be reached at (413) 253-9887 Ext. 20 or by e-mail.

Posted by Daniel at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

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