Gender issues are commonly identified as solely women’s issues, and campaigns against gender-based violence, gender inequality, and sexually transmitted infections are very often associated with women’s organizations. We represent a group of dedicated men in Rwanda who are working hard to positively change that understanding. Founded in 2006, the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre’s vision is to create a “peaceful society where women and men share roles and responsibilities of raising families and governing society in equality and respect.”
The idea for the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre was born after a police report was released in 2005 with shockingly high statistics on the number of rapes committed across the country. It became obvious that men were the main source of a sexual abuse pandemic. At the same time, men were often standing silently in the way of, or blocking, women’s empowerment efforts. Men’s engagement in gender promotion, especially in efforts to end gender-based violence, was a major missing link in gender-responsive development programming in Rwanda.
Our organization began when a group of nine like-minded men who met regularly to discuss social and development issues decided to combat these growing trends. They thought to use and influence Rwanda’s National Policies, Strategies and Laws, which address gender issues, to change negative traditional definitions of masculinity—and the related attitudes and practices that fuel and perpetuate gender-based violence. Over the past few years, this group of nine men has grown into a vibrant national organization with 24 staff, 32 volunteers, 216 members and over 400 applicants waiting to be considered for membership at general assembly.
The Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre proactively engages men in promoting positive masculine behaviors so that men are supportive of women’s empowerment and play a significant role in ending men’s violence against women and children. We empower men so that they feel good about themselves, and we help them do away with aspects of masculinity that have affected them negatively in many parts of their own lives. We help men become better role models for other men, and in particular, more nurturing fathers to young boys.
In our efforts to create positive male engagement, we work from the grassroots to national levels. Our national volunteering team is actively organizing communities to prevent gender-based violence in 16 out of 30 national districts. In local communities, we are creating new men’s self-reflection groups to challenge negative behaviors, facilitating evening dialogue groups with couples in villages, and fostering masculine behaviors that support women’s economic empowerment. We work with local organizations and coffee cooperatives to promote gender equality, and we work with schools to educate youth about healthy relationships.
At the national level, we are advocating for and helping to create gender-responsive policies and development strategies. We are promoting healthy masculinities with uniformed people, especially the police and ex-combatants. Through our MenCare campaign, we are promoting men as caregivers, as good fathers and supporters of maternal health, and as health partners in fostering sexual and reproductive health in Rwanda. We also use radio as a tool to mobilize the public to end men’s violence against women and children.
Throughout our work, we aspire to positively adapt traditional Rwandan male roles to uphold gender equality. Working in partnership with women, we aim to create a society where men are positive and supportive of gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to promote healthy families in a peaceful Rwanda.