A Husband Can Be More Supportive in Early Childhood Education

A Husband Can Be More Supportive in Early Childhood Education

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Theogene Niyirora

For the children living in the refugee camps on two steep divided hills near the Bukavu border, the tiniest things spark joy. They fill their long days by playing with skipping ropes, buckets and stones, their imaginations working overtime to recapture some of the childhood they lost to war.

Kigeme refugee camp is located in Nyamagabe district of the southern province, about 93 miles from Kigali and 74 miles from the Bukavu border. The camp is home to thousands of families who fled fierce fighting between soldiers and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Innocent Ntalindwa and his family are among those struggling to survive in the refugee camp. The crisis has forced Innocent to rethink some of the traditions and cultural norms that he had always accepted about a woman’s role in the family. He shares his story here.

KIGEME REFUGEE CAMP, RWANDA – I am Innocent Ntalindwa, a husband and the father of two. My family lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo before being forced to flee the fighting. Now, the oldest of my children is attending CARE’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) center at this refugee camp, and the youngest is part of the home-based ECD program.

In the DRC’s culture, women are largely responsible for agricultural production and completely responsible for parenting and child care. They are also responsible for all domestic work, including fetching water, gathering firewood and preparing meals. In spite of the critical role they play in sustaining their communities, women are often treated as inferior and are largely excluded from community decision-making.

There are various parenting styles in our community – ways to bring up children so they learn our cultural values and become responsible adults. Some of these forms of parenting are through storytelling (folktales), through the extended family, through traditional rites and through the mother’s care, attention and love. In a refugee camp, though, living as a normal family was not easy, and what I believed to be a woman’s role in the family was no longer straightforward.

Prior to joining CARE’s ECD program, I was no different from most men – very tied to our cultural norms and traditions. When the ECD program started, men in our camp were not at all supportive. So, the program leaders organized an awareness campaign for all refugee parents – especially men – to seek their active participation.

After six months of intensive sensitization activities, men started to change their understanding regarding cultural norms and began to be more supportive of their wives, especially in performing some household activities that had previously been done exclusively by women.

I started taking care of my children at home, and I have no regrets. In fact, I am proud of helping my family – and helping my community. My wife is very happy to have a husband like me, because now I really support her in our family’s daily activities, especially in the education of our young children.

I am proud that my family has become a model family in the camp. We have changed our way of thinking and know that both fathers and mothers should share responsibilities in child care and domestic work.


Innocent Ntalindwa, 26, washes dishes while babysitting his youngest child. Through participating in CARE’s Early Childhood Development program in Kigeme refugee camp in Rwanda, Innocent has changed his mindset about traditional men’s and women’s roles in the household.