Written by Agness John, World Vision Communications Officer - ENRICH Project
Girl-children often experience multifaceted discrimination in the areas of education, health, nutrition, economic development and social advancement. Unfortunately, discrimination against girls doesn't stop when they become women. In fact, the situation worsens and their opportunities narrow down tremendously.
In most African communities, girl-children are not nurtured and empowered to be resilient members of the society. They are taught to be caregivers. This training, coupled with gendered stereotypes about parenting affect the desire and confidence men have in their ability to play their role in their children’s lives as caregivers. Most see childcare is women’s work. This is was the common belief in the Sukuma communities in the Shinyanga Region in Tanzania.
Moses Sabode and his wife, Paulina, have eight children: Suzan, Daudi, Severine, Alphonce, Laurent, Cecilia, Cosmas and Brightness. The Sabode’s live in Ndoleleji village, Kishapu district in Shinyanga Region. Their community rigidly upholds beliefs and practices that strongly imply childcare and home chores are the duties of women.
“Childcare, cooking for the family, fetching water and firewood was not something I or any man in my community could do," explains Moses. "These were left for the women to do. This excluded women from meaningful participation in economic activities or make simple decisions such as the distribution of the farm harvest."
With such rigid inclination to traditional beliefs and practices, women were not even allowed to make decisions regarding their own health, especially as it related to their sexual and reproductive health. Women were regarded as property, owned and controlled by men. The negative effects of such traditional practices were easily seen on the family’s economic, maternal, child health and nutrition.
With funding from Global Affairs Canada, World Vision Tanzania’s ENRICH Project introduced the MenCare model in order to address gender barriers and as a way to achieve holistic family well-being which in return could deal with gender equality issues as well as promote better health for mothers, fathers and their children. In the implementation of ENRICH Project, men are encouraged to be allies, supporting women’s social and economic equality in part by taking on more responsibility for childcare and domestic work at home.
Sharing his reflections on the ENRICH Project, Moses explains how the programme works. “Community facilitators, trained through World Vision’s ENRICH project [and the] MenCare model, taught us about the division of labour, childcare, positive parenting and also on how we can support our wives, which would result on better and happier marriages towards as well as the establishment of a productive community. I also learned a great deal about the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. My wife and I have since decided to stop having more children so that we are able to take care of our eight children.”
One of the programmes' topics, 'Father by Accident or by Choice', especially touched Moses. “I learned that having a few children could have enabled us to take better care of them. For example, we could have taken our children to better schools. If this knowledge reached us earlier, we would have chosen to have only four or five children. Traditionally, we just have children, as many as one can, without thinking about the children’s future needs or our women’s health,” he explained.
What Moses shared resonates with the fact that challenging inequitable social norms must be gender-transformative. Such work must start early and continue throughout life. Also, it has to be embedded within existing structures such as early child development initiatives, health services, education and parenting programs. One of the most important and continued lessons learnt through the ENRICH Project is that gender transformative awareness should involve all groups in the society, including women, men, children, community leaders, faith leaders, health providers and development partners.
Paulina is encouraged by the transformation of her husband and her family through this programme. “All the power and all family decisions have always been made by my husband. But, since this project by World Vision came through, my husband does not make all the decisions alone. He consults and involves me in decisions that affect our family’s present and our future. I am amazed by this change,” she says, smiling wide.
Speaking of her current role in the family economy, Paulina said, “I am really thankful that I am able to participate in the entrepreneurship activities, including village savings and loans group. I am presently participating in my family’s economic decisions and activities. This was not the case before the project. I am seeing the results. Our daughter is also healthy and happy. All this is as a result of proper feeding, the availability of all the five groups of food in our home, and close attention from both of us.”
After the implementation of the MenCare Model training, Ally Lugito, the Village Executive Officer (VEO) for Ndoleleji Village said “Men in this village have been actively participating in the MenCare Model sessions. This has resulted in huge changes in our community. We are now not attending cases on family disputes as before. Women are active in economic activities and men are happy taking care of their families and assisting with household chores. Being one of the MenCare Model community facilitators, I encourage all individuals, regardless of gender, to see themselves as both caregivers and financial providers.”
Celebrating the Transformation
In Ndoleleji, the gender-transformative process is realising milestones and the workers who would otherwise be wearing long faces, are now joining the celebrations as they see men getting more involved in the daily activities in their homesteads.
Moses together with his family.
“We are not only celebrating male involvement, but also the improvement of our community’s health through trained and equipped Community Health Workers (CHWs) and health providers. Also, our girls and fellow women live under a new light – they know their rights. I have to highlight the fact that there is a huge and visible transformation in our community’s well-being. Thanks to World Vision and Global Affairs of Canada for implementing the ENRICH project in our village. Not forgetting the zealous collaboration and cooperation showed by the village leadership we continue [edicating] the community. The results are amazing. We are so grateful,” expressed Hadija Mwinshari, Ndoleleji Community Development Officer.
In addition to the appreciation and the celebratory tones from the women, the men and Local Government officials, girl-children are also celebrating improved relations with their parents, especially their fathers.
Evidently, fathers are now engaged and are attending to the needs of their children. The latter is captured in the voice of one of Moses and Paulina Sabode’s children, “My father is always buying me shoes and clothes. I am now accompanying him regularly to the farm. He also assists me with my studies. I feel safer when my father is home.”
The MenCare Model
MenCare is a global fatherhood campaign whose mission is to promote men’s involvement as equitable, responsive and non-violent fathers and caregivers in order to achieve family well-being, gender equality, and better health for mothers, fathers and children. Male involvement can lead to improved maternal newborns and child health and nutrition, stronger and more equitable partner relations, a reduction in violence against women and children, and lifelong benefits for daughters and sons.
Moses one of more than 3,000 men who learned about gender equality, caregiving, the father’s impact, pregnancy and birth, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) & healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, power and decision making, alcoholism and violence as well as the needs and rights of children since the introduction of MenCare Model in February, 2018. Communities from Ikungi and Manyoni districts in Singida and Kahama, Kishapu and Shinyanga districts in Shinyanga region have all benefitted from the project.