June 11, 2020
By Janice Biehn
By its name, you’d be forgiven if you thought the All Mothers and Children Count program was only to benefit women and children. But as the results from 2019-2020 are showing, men were also transformed.
The results can be credited to PWRDF-supported community gender promoters who have been tasked with the job of engaging men in special dialogues on gender equality issues, as advocates for women’s inclusion in livelihoods and on decision making. The four year program was funded with a 6 to 1 match from the Government of Canada.
Amina Bente and Janiero Alberto live in Tropene Village, Mozambique with their four children, ages 6, 4, 3 and 11 months. During the first pregnancy, Alberto did not want Bente to go to the health centre, even when she was experiencing pain. Instead, she went to the traditional healer. For the next two pregnancies, Bente went to the health centre alone.
Bente said they have made changes since they started participating in the AMCC program, run by PWRDF partner EHALE. The children have become healthier and they have put on healthy weight. Now, if their children are sick, they go to the health centre together to care for their children.
Bente is more confident as a mother based on what she has learned from AMCC and Alberto is more present in the family. As a couple, they also talk a lot more and make decisions together. In the past, Alberto fed his family cassava and beans. Now they eat more diverse food. He cooks food for his family and when Bente is away from their home, he does the housework.
Antonio and Celestina Joachim describe a similar transformation. Before AMCC began, everything in the household was Celestina’s responsibility. But then they participated in sustainable agricultural training together. They learned not to burn the grass and instead use it to cover the soil and make mulch. They now plant their crops in rows and use natural fertilizers. They have seen improvements in their fields with these new sustainable practices. Now Antonio is more supportive of Celestina and they make decisions together, such as how much to plant on their land and what inputs they need for their farming. They learned that women and men are equal, they have the same rights.
In the districts of Tunduru and Masasi, Tanzania, the AMCC project has made a difference in the live of men. They are also stepping up to help around the house and are changing their negative perceptions about women.
Men are now more likely to accompany their partners and children to the health clinic. That means they are also supporting their partners to receive basic health services and are more willing to look after the kids while mom gets checked.
“It is normal these days to see a man taking a child to clinic or carrying his child,” says one gender officer. “It was not normal to see a man doing domestic chores like cooking, even when going to the farm it was only the mother who carried everything while the father only walks, but as we continued to educate them we noted positive changes happening in many communities.”
Another gender officer noted: “We educated men to help their wives/partners at home. For example, maybe in cooking, washing clothes and taking children to hospital. If you look now, they take wives/partners to hospital, they take children to clinic. This different than before the start of project where men who assisted women to do domestic work were famously scorned “Bushoke” (from a song showing violence against men).
Men in these communities now believe women have the same abilities and capacity as they have. The AMCC program supported women’s active participation in meetings, project committees and focus group discussions, which gradually reshaped men’s perceptions. As a result, women are now fully involved in keeping livestock. They are able to speak during community meetings, whereas before the project they believed that men would speak for them. More women are running for leadership positions. Women now have influence at the household level on equitable food sharing, on access to health care, especially in issues of family planning and other health services.
“Things have changed,” says a female participant of a farming program in Mchengamoto Village. “Before, we had a rigid patriarchal system with only men making decisions. After men received education from the project, more men are flexible and involve us in decision making.”
– with files from Jeanine Cudmore and Bart Dickinson