Target: Edouard Munyamaliza, Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Men’s Resource Center (RWAMREC)
Goal: Support training program that fights gender-based violence in northern Rwanda
A new training program has begun in northern Rwanda that addresses the tragic problem of gender-based domestic violence throughout the area. This program teaches couples about rights and respect, and how to fairly divide domestic tasks between men and women. This program empowers women, with Berancille Mukabandora, a former participant and now vice president of an association that fights gender-based violence, reporting, “I started to feel confident after the RWAMREC trainings.”
Violence against women in Rwanda is startlingly common, with almost half of all women ages 15-49 having been abused physically and/or sexually in their lifetime, according to Rwanda’s 2010 Health and Demographic Survey. RWAMREC was founded in 2006 in response to these growing rates of gender-based violence, starting as a grass-roots organization by a few local men who wanted to promote “positive masculinity.” Through their program, they aim to encourage men to be loving fathers and spouses who support gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Edouard Munyamaliza, executive secretary of RWAMREC, agrees that masculinity needs to be redefined in Rwanda in order for gender-based violence to end. Many men think violence shows the community that they are “real” men who deserve respect, and they fear social punishment if they do not engage in such violent behaviors. The shift from the collective view of men owning all the property and running the household to a partnership between men and women working together in equal ownership and responsibility is an important first step in ending gender-based violence and inequality between men and women.
Women are also addressed in these trainings, separately at first and then together with the men, to break down the idea that women should accept violence from men. Many women feel they need to tolerate domestic violence in order to keep their family together, and some even regard their husbands as “chiefs.” In blended groups of men and women, role-play, group discussions, and creating an action plan as a couple, are all effective activities that have been proven to drastically reduce domestic violence. Support the important trainings offered by RWAMREC to end gender-based violence in Rwanda once and for all.
Dear Edouard Munyamaliza,
Thank you for your part in facilitating RWAMREC trainings for men and women in northern Rwanda. Gender-based violence is a serious problem in Rwanda, with almost half of all women ages 15-49 having reported domestic abuse, physical and/or sexual, at some point in their life. Many women live with the abuse, thinking that they must tolerate it or lose their family, often regarding their husband as their “chief.” The trainings that you offer to couples have been incredibly effective in squashing these toxic collective ideas about the roles of men and women.
In your RWAMREC trainings, men learn to redefine masculinity, replacing a violent approach with a loving, understanding approach. Women learn to empower themselves and to not withstand abuse. Together they learn to divide household tasks and to see things from the other’s perspective, creating a contract to hold them accountable to their new way of living and relating to one another.
Thank you for the important work RWAMREC is doing, and please do not hold back on your efforts to change the social gender norms in Rwanda. Stand strong in your knowledge of healthy relationships between men and women, and be relentless in your pursuit of a better society, one that knows no gender-based violence.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Hansueli Krapf via Wikimedia Commons