Journeys of Transformation was designed to engage men as the husbands and partners of the women in the savings groups. Through participation in the group educational activities, the project encouraged men to reflect on rigid gender norms; to examine their personal attitudes and beliefs; and to question traditional ideas about household decision-making and division of labor, caring for children, and sharing household tasks. These activities also promote men’s acceptance of and support for their wives’ participation in the savings groups and for their economic empowerment, and encourage men to see women in a different light and treat them with greater respect.
Partners of female participants in Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) were then given companion training on: (1) business skills, information about the VSLA program, and income- generation planning and activities, including sessions that focus on negotiation and decision-making patterns between men and women; (2) health and wellbeing, including practical information about general health, reproductive health, sexuality, alcohol consumption, and strategies for coping with stress; (3) gender-based violence laws and policies promoting gender equality in Rwanda.
This training intervention was implemented with a very limited experimental group, consisting of 30 female beneficiaries of the VSLA program. Husbands of these women were engaged in 16 weekly group education sessions, while a comparison group continued VSLA training and issuing loans for women without the engagement of their partners.
The families of men who participated in the intervention group saw a significantly higher gain in income compared with families of men who did not participate. Additionally, some men became more supportive of family planning, and many became more involved with childcare activities – changes that were not seen in the comparison group (where the VSLA was carried out without engaging the male partners of women participants).
- Couples in the project made nearly twice as much money as families who weren’t in the program. Not only did they have more money, but they were more likely to share the income among family members rather than having the husband make decisions or control finances.
- Men were more likely to help out at home. The workload at home changed, so women no longer had to handle all the household chores and caring for children.
- Family life was better. Couples reported less violence, better relationships, and more openness. They could talk about how to take care of their children, when to use family planning, and what kinds of investments to make for their future.