For four days, the paraprofessionals (community-based extension workers) in Masasi, Tanzania learned about gender and how to facilitate dialogues on household workload-sharing, financial decisions, building trust, and understanding different perspectives. Today, they took their new tools to the village of Naipanga to practice all they’ve learned. In Naipanga, one group of paraprofessionals facilitated role-plays depicting a harmonious home in which men and women were doing atypical tasks, but supporting one another.
“It started with a role-play of men, mothers-in-law, and women all working together. It really showed us the necessity of helping each other. When we help each other, there can be harmony in the home, and we can achieve development,”
explained Mari Toule, one of the participants from the community who took part in the role-play.
After the role-play, the men and women were separated. Each came up with affirmation statements: the women affirmed the value of their work and the importance of their contributions to the family’s well-being. The men affirmed that it takes courage to try new behaviors.
Then, each group wrote specific, small commitments they wanted to try out. The men talked about how they could provide support in the home, while the women discussed how they could ask for support from their families. Finally, they shared their statements aloud to the opposite group.
Engaging in this dialogue and role-play allowed the participants to consider normal practices from a different perspective and to initiate concrete changes in their own homes. Most of the men felt ashamed and sorry when they heard the women talk about their workloads and their need for support. Listening to the women was an enlightening experience as Hazan Amzani displayed: “I’m old—for me, it’s difficult for me to see a man supporting his wife,” Hazan admitted. “It’s almost like an insult. If you see a man helping his wife, you think he has a problem ‘upstairs,’ maybe he’s not all the way complete. I never thought such a thing would be possible before—but now you’ve put the idea in my head, and I’ve started to see it from a different point of view. But today, I made a commitment. I agreed to wash clothes. It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to try.”
For others like Mathiew Chikwindo, it was a relief, “I was very happy with the role play. For the few of us men who were supporting already, it made me feel that I was doing the right thing—that what I was doing was something that women really needed. I was already doing this, but until now I had to do it in secret. Now I can do it openly!”
John Mtale is not as convinced, but says “Now I’m going to try, because I can see others doing it. I’m going to cook ugali. I know how to do it, but I don’t do it very often. If I see my wife needs help, I’m going to help out.”
Mwana Afa Abasi jumps in: “You should not do it only if you see she needs support—this should be your responsibility!” In her group, she talked about the value of women’s household work and how she deserved to be recognized and supported for her contributions to the family, “I felt it was true, when we spoke these statements—that we do have the right to be recognized,” she said, “and I remember what the men said to us [in our group]: It felt good to hear that men are courageous and can help their wives to keep their families well.”
All of the participants in this group have made a small commitment—either to provide support to their spouse or to ask for support from their family. But there are no delusions that behaviors will change overnight. Women in particular will find it hard to talk to their families, and it would be difficult for them to ask other group members to intervene with their families.
John Mtale says this is why it’s important that activities like today’s role-play be carried out for the whole community: “If we go home and just start telling others to change, they’ll never listen. And you can’t tell someone else’s husband to change. Even a father can’t make such a suggestion to his son. The son will say, ‘Go back to your own government; this is my government here (in my household)’.”
For this reason, they requested that this type of training be held for all of the men in the community—organized by the chairman at the hamlet level. As Mathiau Chikwindo put it, “A person has to change from the inside. So a meeting at the hamlet level—that would be a start.”
Photos – 2013 Emily Hillenbrand/CARE