A recent Rutgers-sponsored initiative in Rwanda encourages men to become more involved in domestic duties and in the prenatal health of their wives. MenCare’s efforts at breaking down barriers are ending some of the long-standing patriarchy in many parts of the developing world.
According to its mission statement, MenCare wants to engage men “in improving sexual and reproductive health and rights and in preventing gender-based violence in conflict affected areas.”
MenCare seeks to engage males at every stage of life, not just expecting fathers and husbands. Because according to MenCare, women’s quality of life cannot be improved if men and boys are not on board as they are some of the most influential of allies. Overall, MenCare encourages and enlists men and boys to help improve the working and living conditions of their mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, all in an effort to increase gender equality in some of the poorest places on the planet.
Currently, MenCare has programs in Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Rwanda. While these countries have areas of extreme poverty, these nations also have a strong sense of patriarchy; that patriarchy, though, may limit a woman’s right to education, health and freedom within her home. MenCare’s efforts at breaking down these barriers are manifold — MenCare teaches men to value their wives’ opinions, to respect their opinions as well as their bodies and to help with chores and duties that may be considered ‘unmanly.’
Female Empowerment and Male Success
MenCare’s attempts have been successful. According to data collected after the initiation of their Rwanda program, MenCare reported: “Men are nearly half as likely to use violence against their female partners and spend almost one hour more per day doing household chores.” For another perspective on the MenCare program, wives of husbands in the program stated the following:
- Nineteen percent of married women report an unmet need for family planning
- Only 23 percent of Rwandan women are able to make decisions about their own health
- More than 20 percent of married women report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their husband in the past year.
In MenCare couples, husbands were reported to have spent 2 hours and 15 minutes on household chores per day — significantly more than non-MenCare male spouses — and wives were more likely to use contraceptives and have more say in financial decisions.
MenCare’s efforts at breaking down barriers are encouraging. MenCare encourages men and boys to respect and value women’s opinions and bodies, while simultaneously instilling a sense of gender equality. These developments could only help developing nations, where women are often overlooked, mistreated, neglected or abused.
More programs like MenCare should be funded, as their potential for ending poverty — and creating a more gender-equal world — are limitless.
– Raymond Terry