This 3 page document is one of a series in the Feed the Future-funded GRAD program's learning breifs.
I am Proud to be the Man I am Today
I am Proud to be the Man I am Today
41 year old Sonam Thing Lama (Tamang) has been an exemplary resident of Hadikhola VDC, Ward 2 of Makwanpur district in Churia region of Central Nepal. A primary school graduate, Sonam has been involved with CARE Nepal’s SAKCHAM II project’s initiation of the men engagement campaign in his community since 2011.
But this wasn’t always the case. Initially when his wife Sanju Maya started going to SAPHAL Mahila Samuha’s REFLECT discussions, Sonam was highly critical of it. He, along with other male members of the community used to question the motive of these groups and discussions. “We used to think that the projects which initiated the group discussions had their hidden agenda. In our minds, because it was women’s group only, we thought the project was against men and was disrupting our households and breaking family relationships,” shares Sonam. However when Sonam came to find out about the type of issues that were discussed within the group from Sanju Maya, his attitude started to change.
Listening to Sanju Maya passionately share the issues that she had discussed with her group, it made me realize the importance of women empowerment and the need for all men to understand it.
Meanwhile, SAKCHAM also initiated discussions in the same REFLECT group on men engagement strategy. During these discussions, Sanju Maya was interested to nominate Sonam as a ‘men campaigner’ from their community. And after initially hesitation, Sonam accepted the request to be a men campaigner of Handikhola VDC. “I didn’t think I had done anything for the betterment of women in our community, but I think they selected me because I was more positive and forthcoming to the cause than other men,” says Sonam about his selection.
He then got an opportunity to participate in four-days capacity building training which covered major issues on; sex, gender equality, socialization, masculinity, patriarchy, domestic violence, violence against women, psychosocial well being, importance of men engagement etc. By the end of the training, he was motivated and committed to be actively involved in the men engagement campaign – especially to change the patriarchal mind set and behavior of men towards gender equality. Sonam also sensitized the community men on violence against women and the need to stop the practice. He developed a specific action plan giving priority to promote gender friendly behavior of himself and his family members.
REFLECT Centres have created discourse to break the culture of silence. With this action, men are realizing the consequences of their risky and violent behavior. On the other hand, women are using such opportunities to demand accountability and work with men counterparts on gender based issues.
And Sonam also started to practice what he preached. Due to the patriarchal mindset, he had never called his wife by her name which was a way to dominate her. But the first thing he changed about his attitude was that he started to call Sanju Maya by her name. He also helped her in household chores such as cooking, washing, cleaning, and taking care of their three children. This change in his attitude was not limited to his household but it spread throughout the locality which in turn started to sensitize other men. As a result, within one year, 23 men from his community had joined him in his men engagement campaign.
Sonam has been continuously advocating for gender equality, be it at the policy making level or during day to day interactions with his friends and family. Recalling one such incident, he shares, “One of my best friend had invited me to his home to have rice pudding (a general tradition in rural Nepal during the month of July). After a while I realized that he was waiting for his wife to clean the plates and to serve the pudding to us. This made me start helping his wife out myself. He was shocked at my behavior but I told him that even he has to start helping his wife out and change his patriarchal mindset if he wanted to remain friends with me.”
Sonam’s plans to continue his work.
I am committed to prove that men’s attitude and behavior should be changed for gender equality and I am proud of the man I am today -Sonam