HEAL Africa’s gender and masculinity project, WABABA, targets men to address violence against women. While much of Sexual and Gender Based Violence programs focus exclusively on women, men are referred to as either indirect victims or perpetrators. In April 2013 HEAL Africa began to focus on men as central agents of change. The WABABA project targets three categories of men: partners of sexual violence survivors, men who have been exposed violent behaviors and men who are leaders (or role models) in community.Keep reading
The eastern part of DRC has been the epicenter of conflict for over a decade. As a result, powerstruggles and exposure to violence have been influential in shaping both soldier and civilianperceptions of masculinity. For most of their lives, Congolese men have been exposed to military culture and human rights abuses to varying degrees, while DRC’s politics protects those who holdpower.
Congolese society expects men to be the provider, protector, procreator and head of his household.But due to the region’s history of war and poverty, men have experienced powerlessness, shame,trauma, and loss. Because men who are not in decision-making positions don’t have the advantagesof male privilege in a male-dominated society, many react in violence to assert their masculinity; orbecome victims of different forms of violence, perpetrated by their peers as well as women.
Through a combination of male group therapy and educational workshops, HEAL Africa fosters positive masculinity while educating men on self-conduct among their relationships. During group therapy,participants practice coping skills in dealing with stress, loss and trauma. Within a safe environment,participants are trained and given the opportunity to question and reflect on their actions. Participantsalso practice communication skills to improve relationships with their wives and children.
The focus on men has transformed relationships within the households of participants. It hasincreased communication in participants at home, helped to overcome different forms of violence, and enabled more connections between fathers and children. After her husband joined the ‘’Living Peace Group’’ in the city of Goma, North Kivu Province, DRC, a woman among others, Mrs. Anicet, testified changes in her relationship with her husband:
If I remember, when the M23 occupied Goma, I slept outside. My husband chased me outside at 1AM. I couldn’t go to disturb neighbors at such time. All that because of boisson (local beer). There was no one to talk to him. He would tell the children, “you are a dog”. If a child is a ‘dog’ so is the mother. The day before yesterday… I called him “sweetheart”. Our children laughed, saying, “mummy has called dad ‘sweetheart’ ”. They didn’t know why I called him so.