The Uncommon Man

October 05, 2007

Adin Reflects on the Trip to Rwanda

I joined Steven and James' co-facilitation team on this trip as a woman with a background in peacebuilding as well as gender, and several years' experience working in Rwanda. It's been an amazing experience on multiple levels. Taking such a journey together for the first time, two men and a woman, to work with men and women in a culture not our own with issues that have affected all our lives, was a big undertaking. We are flying home as I write, and there is more to look back on than I can describe, so I'll mention only a couple of things.

First, about Steven and James and the work they do as Men's Resources International. They are extraordinary facilitators, distinctly different from each other, each bringing a powerful distinctive perspective. Their work is very emotional, designed to open men to a deep experience of their impact on women, and the way this impact has harmed themselves as well as their loved ones. They honor the experience of men as they simultaneously hold them accountable for their non-awareness of their violence and its impact. My role as it evolved was to weave in aspects of the perspective of peacebuilding, exploring the links between intimate violence and global violence, and the ways violence wounds identity, for example. It was also useful to have me there as a woman, responding as a woman, articulating truths not yet emerging from the women in the group, and working directly with them.

The second striking aspect of Steven and James' work is their commitment to turning it over to the people they're working with right from the beginning. While their engagement with others includes training, the training is a process of lighting a fire (as they say at the beginning, working with head, heart and soul, in order to understand, feel, and believe), with faith that the tinder to keep it going will be found in the room. Thus, each training evolves into a process of discussing next steps in building a grassroots movement with the energy and commitment awakened in the group. They are respectful conveners of this process of planning. In each workshop they share information about similar groups which are working already in other places. Dreams emerge from participants, such as developing an Africa-wide network of groups working to engage men in working with women on gender based violence, with teams on the group who could go when called to new communities.

The work was intense, exciting, fun, and moving, in new ways for me. While I carry questions always about the impact of people like us coming from other countries to "help" in Africa, there's an undeniable hunger for support to address this violence so inherent in culture here, and we bring not so much "expertise" as ourselves as men and women, albeit embedded in our own cultures, to work that has many similarities world wide.

Posted by Jorge at October 5, 2007 11:12 AM

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