To Share or Not to Share
To Share or Not to Share
This was the question when we started our program with male field staff. As part of their jobs, the male staff were out in communities challenging social norms around gender. But it was tough to talk about it amongst their own peers, because they were afraid their friends would make fun of them. It’s important to create spaces for men to talk about their own experiences, and what gender inequality means for them. We are all better activists if we believe what we say and are comfortable with it, if we are not afraid of ridicule. Part of CARE’s development with field staff is giving them a chance to examine their own feelings and advance their work.
Harun, a male staff member who facilitates male group meetings, shared a personal story with tears in his eyes, and you could have heard a pin drop. Harun told us how he organized first time fathers meetings in the villages and soon he became one of them as he too was expecting to be a father himself! For the first time in his meeting, Harun was struggling with gender norms and son preference in his own life.
When Harun heard that his new baby was a girl, he went to meet his wife. She was in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. She said she could not give him a son and would be sorry forever! Harun was shocked. Here he is preaching in the community about equal status of men and women and at home his wife bears such pain for something that is so precious to them. Harun cried over how upset his wife was, and his wife thought his tears were disappointment over not having a son. Her fear and disappointment was hurting him, too. He had to explain that the baby girl was the best gift for them!
In the session, tears rolled down his eyes while he told he was so proud to be a dad and sorry for women who feel so low for bringing such a precious gift to us. He confesses that since then he shares a beautiful bond with his wife that is built on respect and care. While Harun tells his story, it brings an empathy and his peers open up to share more secrets of change they are ready to role model.
Our own lives and convictions are a critical part of the work that we do. We are able to change our lives only when we change ourselves, and we all need support to do that. CARE’s work with men and boys—in our staff and in our communities—focuses on how we learn to believe in equality, and see that gender equality is better for everyone, men and women.
About the Author: Suniti Neogy works with CARE India’s Join My Village Maternal Health Program as a Program Coordinator.
About Join My Village:
Following Social Analysis and Action (SAA) approach, Join My Village Maternal Health program of CARE has been committed to transform staff capacity as the first step of bring about change. CARE Staff and partner staff were trained to reflect on their personal biases and challenged the social norms that affect their own lives and the lives of the communities they worked with. 15 partner staff facilitated 195 men’s groups who were mostly young men either recently married or to be first time fathers. Incidentally, partner staff Harun was in the same category, he was recently married and was expecting to be a father soon and he facilitated sessions for 13 young men’s groups to increase couple communication and to reflect with men on issues of women’s and men’s reproductive health and sexuality, family planning, gender equity and gender based violence.