Joy Has Hatched in My House
"Like an egg, joy has hatched in my house. Between myself and my wives, and between me and my children. I learned that compassion is a new force for transformation." Amada is a participant in the Engaged Men program, where CARE Mali works through local groups to train men to think differently about gender equality. He has two wives, and 11 children, including 4 girls. He told his powerful story of change to Aliou Bah, the coordinator for the Engaged Men Program.The engaging men and boys approach in CARE Mali’s Women’s Empowerment Program has helped change the relationships between husbands and wives in communities where polygamous families are legal, and indeed the majority of the community.
"Before the Engaged Men trainings, I was very authoritarian. I used all of my power over my wife and children. I thought I was strong, and I proved it by resolving all of the problems in my household all by myself. I thought I had to be in charge of all of the household spending and income. I was really a dominant male. In my household, I took myself for a ferocious lion—the sole master of the forest. I fought without thinking about my wives and what they needed.
My children and I avoided each other. I was very harsh with them. Anything I wanted was an irrevocable order—all I wanted was to give them that message. There was no room for them to make mistakes. Sometimes, I beat them severely. I was never careful with them, never. When I came home, there was total silence—like the silence of death and mourning. No one in the house would make eye contact with me. In order to have any conversation, I had to bring up a subject. I drove all of the conversations. I decided who could talk. Often, I didn’t let anyone else talk, because I only wanted to talk about myself. No one dared to contradict me."
As for my wives, they scrupulously avoided each other. They never looked each other in the eyes, or spoke to each other openly and directly. They never forgave each other. They fought every day about me or because of me. Their relationship was very tense.
There were solid, impenetrable walls between myself and my wives, between my wives, and between my wives’ children.
But on the inside, I often resented my limits. I could never reveal how much I agonized over situations and problems at home. I did everything I could to camouflage my pain. I was convinced that if anyone else ever discovered my distress—especially my wives—I was finished. I would be on display, with all of my weaknesses naked for people to see. So I was very violent with myself in order to mask this resentment."
"After the Engaged Men trainings, which were based on promoting healthy masculinities, gender equality, and techniques for engaging men (like couples dialogue, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue, and learning about gender roles), I saw a huge change at my house. I saw changes in myself, in my wives, and in our children.
First, our relationships at home were much more human. I realized that I alone was not enough to make the family. I understood that working together and complementarity are precious, especially in a household. I learned that compassion is possible—actually indispensable—in families, especially for children.
So I made a 180 degree turn in my personal behavior. I learned how to approach my wives and children, to talk with them, and to be their friend. Like a boomerang, I saw it all come back to create positive changes at home. My wives became joyous. They are smiling when I come home. They get along with each other, and talk to each other easily. They look each other in the eyes. They tease me together. Even better, they ask me how I am doing, and what’s wrong if I am having a hard time. They are always near me to support me if I need help. Our children play together, and talk together without obstacles.
There are no more barriers between them. Like an egg, joy has hatched in my house. Between myself and my wives, and between me and my children. I learned that compassion is a new force for transformation. It is natural, and available for everyone who wants to use it. It was also required for improving relationships in my family. Long live the Engage Men approach for a large and long-lasting impact.”
You can see Amada and his wives talk about their story here. Or watch a story from Daouda, another man in the Mali program and his wives discuss their experience of change.
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 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.
About the program: CARE Mali’s Engaged Men Program works with 592 men in 31 villages in the Segou region of Mali. They build on existing Village Savings and Loan and microfinance groups to reach men in the communitites. The work centers around creating more productive, equal, and peaceful relationships in families and communities. Each group of male champions explores exercises to think about gender roles and how they could be more equal at home. You can see more about the Learning Initative, and our work with Engaging Men and Boys.
About the Author: Aliou Bah is the coordinator for the Engaged Men program in Mali, where he has worked with CARE since 2004. He has a degree in Psychology and Pedagogy from the Ecole National Superior in Bamako, and is passionate about engaging men and boys for emancipating men and women. He is working to make sure that his 2 daughters and 3 sons have a chance to grow up equal and free.