Gender Based Violence Can Become Just a Memory
We sat down with Perusi, a SASA! and, Emmanuel, a member of Abatangamuco to discuss how their lives before and after entering these programs.
Remorsefully, Emmanuel talked about a time in his life he’d worked so hard to forget. A time when he wasn’t able to be there for his family in a way he knew they needed.
He recalled how during that time, “I didn’t help around the house, I had no money to ration to my wife, and after setting aside money for beer, nothing was left to send my kids to school.”
His biggest regret, however, was hitting his wife. “Hitting my wife was and still is one of the worse thing I ever did to her. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever was that person. And that is the first thing I changed when I joined Abatangamuco. I swore to never hit her again.”
In 2008, he attended Abatangamuco, a movement of rural Burundian men who defy the traditional expectations based on gender. He attended a few meetings at first, and listened to people’s testimonies on the dynamics of power and privilege in relationships in households and he recognized himself in those stories.
After those meetings, a light bulb went off for him. And six years later, that light continues to shine for Emmanuel.
But his road to change was not an easy one. The people he used to share drinks with would ridicule him as he began to commit more time to Abatangamuco. Emmanuel believed that many of these men found themselves in similar situations at home and feared losing a member of their crew. It hurt them to encourage him to move forward.
But the program was slowly changing his world for the better.
“Now my wife and I sit down and talk about issues. I use words, not slaps. It’s hard to say “sorry”, but when I need to, I say it. My wife is more important than my pride.”
His resolve to share the positive impacts encouraged him to deepen his involvement in Abatangamuco. In the six years since he has been part of Abatangamuco he has seen the program grow from just five men to one hundred and twenty.
With an endearing shyness, Perusi told us about her experience with SASA!, a program that mobilizes the community against gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. SASA! engages group members in critical thinking on the imbalance of power between men and women as the principal cause of gender-based violence and the spreading of HIV/AIDS.
“Before SASA!, my household was tumultuous; I felt oppressed and overwhelmed with chores. When people talk about GBV, the majority of them think about physical violence and refuse to see oppression as violence as well. I had no say on any of the house’s resources; I had no idea how much we had. I felt like a maid or a slave: I worked in the fields for months and after the harvest; my husband would sell everything and spend the earnings I worked so hard for on alcohol."
With the program, Perusi and her husband were able to pinpoint the issues they were facing and address them accordingly.
“I found out that independence was very important to me. I needed my husband and I to be equals, I wanted to be financially able to support myself instead of going to my husband whenever I needed money to buy salt."
With time, things slowly began to change.
“I remember the day I came home from the field and found the water tank full... My husband went to fetch water and I could not believe my eyes!”
For her, those moments were small victories.
Perusi who is now one of the program’s educators says that it is very important for her to preach financial independence and equality to fight against GBV. “My husband passed away recently, and even though most of our life together was really bad, I have nothing but the best memory from when we both changed thanks to SASA!. Our children are all in programs similar to SASA! that teach them how to maximize their potential and lead a better lifestyle.”
What is #16Days? November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, until December 10th, International Human Rights Day are the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, an international campaign with over 5,167 participating organizations from more than 187 countries, with activities to raise awareness about GBV and advocate for elimination.
What is CARE Doing? Preventing and responding to GBV is an integral part of CARE’s commitment to promoting gender equality and end poverty. In FY13, 61 CARE country offices implemented programming that address GBV in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin American and the Caribbean, reaching more than 1 million people. CARE addresses GBV by integrating evidence-based strategies into programming areas such as education, health, economic development, and food security. Overall, 26% of CARE’s total projects in FY12 addressed GBV. Read the CARE International Impact Report to learn more about CARE’s response. Check out CARE’s Blog for updates on what we are doing throughout 16 Days. Read more on CARE's work with Engaging Men and Boys
About the Authors:
Joanna Nganda is from Burundi. She initially started her career in Communications as a journalist but her passion for women's rights, humanitarian work and health equity convinced her to get more involved in those fields and focus the purpose of her writing towards creating positive development-focused impacts. Now she is a Global Health Corps fellow working on Knowledge Management, Information, and Communication at CARE International in Burundi.
Karen Maniraho is a Global Health Corps fellow at CARE International in Burundi working on Knowledge Management, Information, and Communication. She studied international development at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies. Karen enjoys writing on issues of gender, health, and identity politics in development contexts as a way of advocating for the empowerment of our most vulnerable communities. While in Burundi, she hopes to explore other parts of the Great Lakes region, speak Kirundi and French, and experience Burundi’s emerging art, music, and literary scenes.