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Men Engage

Historical background of initiator organisations

Founded in 2006 on the principles of equality, integrity and excellence, Fontaine-ISOKO for Good Governance and Integrated Development was established by women and men committed to working hand in hand in building a just society and bringing positive change to Burundi and the Great Lakes region of Africa.  By contributing to Burundian peacebuilding and good governance processes, Fontaine-ISOKO’s mission is to promote a competitive and entrepreneurial culture for active, nonviolent and sustainable development. 

CORDAID is a Dutch civil society development organization that aims to create fair, diverse and sustainable societies.  Specializing in vulnerable regions and conflict contexts, CORDAID emphasizes community-level projects and social entrepreneurship that facilitates collaborative development.  Together, Fontaine-ISOKO and CORDAID seek to inspire mutual social change that supports nonviolence, community integration and equality.

Towards community involvement in the fight against SGBV

In December 2012, Fontaine-ISOKO, with the financial support of CORDAID, began a community-based gender equity and advocacy program entitled Mon RĂ´le (My Role) to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) in post-conflict Burundi.  Over a three-year period, 720 participants, 60% women and 40% men  partook in group education, gender-based violence prevention advocacy and human and women’s rights monitoring activities.  Building from Partnership Between Men and Women to Bring an End to Violence Against Women, a Men’s Resources International program manual, My Role utilizes a socio-ecological framework, gender synchronized strategies and positive masculinities methodologies to implicate and empower men to address violence against women and girls.

Gender-based violence in Burundi takes many forms and has been exacerbated by decades of conflict, impunity, poverty, displacement and normalized silence around GBV.  My Role project takes place throughout six communes in two provinces chosen because of their high rates of gender-based violence.  In Ngozi province, Mwumba, Nyamurenza and Busiga communes have high rates of violence against women and girls, particularly as these communities border Rwanda and see sexual and domestic trafficking of women and girls.  Bubanza, Mpanda and Gihanga communes in Bubanza province are rice-producing communities located on the periphery of the capital city, Bujumbura, and see high rates of economic violence against women and girls during harvest season and cases of polygamy in which men use household resources to take additional wives, disinheriting the first and legal wives.

My Role, Gender and Masculinities

My Role seeks to prevent gender-based violence by transforming gender schems and power relationships.  Gender refers to women and men, the relations between them, their roles and identities and the structural components that create gender differentiated power relationships (Barker et al., 2009; Stefanik, 2010).  In theory and in practice, however, gender is frequently used interchangeably with women, effectively erasing men’s gender socialization and its effects on violence and health outcomes from gender-based violence programming.  This has resulted in “men-generic” and “men-static” policies that overlook both the ways in which men benefit very unequally from patriarchy and the fluidity of masculinities and resulting potential for transformation (Barker, 2006, p. 11; Flood 2013, p. 2).  Twenty years of research on gender socialization has illuminated the ways in which men and women exist within power structures that create hierarchies of privilege, power and vulnerability (Barker et al., 2009, p. 11).  As a consequence of these power relationships, some men may be in positions of both oppressor, committing violence against women, and as oppressed, suffering various forms of exclusion and domination at the hands of other men (Barker and Ricardo, 2008, p. 9).
Concepts of hegemonic masculinity, dominant “expectations about appropriate behavior, language and bodies” created and reinforced through the interconnection of individual agency and social and political structures (Harders, 2012, p. 139; Connell, 1995) normalize domination and “ideas that men should take risks, endure pain, be tough or stoic, or should have multiple sexual partners…to prove that they are “real men”” (Barker and Ricardo, 2008, p. 8).  Thus, gender affects men and women in multiple and contextually situated ways, validating violence and reproducing inequitable relationships.  My Role builds from these understandings that gender is: 1) socially-constructed; 2) oppressive of women and men and 3) changeable in order to empower men and women to transform inequitable and violent power structures and improve health and human rights outcomes.
This document elaborates two aspects of My Role conceptualization and execution.  The first section addresses the question ‘Why work with men and boys to address gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict sub-Saharan Africa?’  Thus, the first half contextualizes theoretical developments in the field of gender equity and social norms change that pertain to men’s needs, roles and potential for improving gender based violence outcomes in the sub-Saharan Africa region.  In the second section, we elaborate key best practices from the literature and relate them to My Role design.  For both sections, we draw from literature and programmatic reviews completed by experts in the field, namely publications from Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice Network, World Health Organization, Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), Men Engage Network and International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).  These publications utilized desk reviews of relevant literature, consultations with colleague organizations, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, case studies and surveys, such as the GEM (Gender Equitable Men) Scale and IMAGES (International Men and Gender Equality Survey).  Additionally, the team completed a review of literature pertaining to men and masculinities, conflict and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.