By Maggie Ziegler
Here is a short story with a history that precedes my arrival in Rwanda. Two years ago, BWSS commissioned me to write an article on involving men and boys in speaking out against violence against women, and as part of that project, I web-searched international initiatives by men.
The Rwandan Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) was a great find. At that time, in early 2008, the organization was a couple of years old and they were circulating a petition against gender-based violence in Kenya’s post election conflict. I was touched that this small group of men was committed to raising the awareness of how women were impacted by genocide and conflict, both in their own country and elsewhere.
It was a delightful surprise, then, to find myself in a restaurant late one afternoon, sharing a pot of African tea with Edouard Munyamaliza, the executive director. Edouard, an intelligent man with a passion for ending violence against women, told me about the centre’s mission to support women’s leadership in the fight against gender based violence. One of their current projects involves delivering workshops on gender and masculinity to the workers in coffee producing cooperatives.
We conversed at length about the links between genocide and gender based violence, and what kind of possible connections of trainings and activities might make an interesting collaboration. I’m very much hoping that something from this discussion can be realized during my time here.
A chain of connections… A Ugandan woman interviewed Edouard for research she was doing on gender for VSO Rwanda. She spoke so highly of the organization that my partner, Phil, went to meet with Edouard in order to see if he could contribute in some way. When Phil told Edouard that I was working at the genocide memorial and have a history of working in the violence against women field, Edouard said he was interested in getting together. And I was glad.
As I write, Phil is attending a three-day workshop sponsored by RWAMREC and delivered by two Americans from Men’s Resource International, the US based organization of which RWAMREC is a member. Edouard, trilingual like many Rwandans, is translating between French, English and Kinyarwanda. Phil is thrilled to be sharing this training on positive masculinity and ending violence with forty African men and women, all committed to taking this workshop into their own communities. And I am very jealous that I am not there!
Maggie Ziegler is currently in Rwanda for 18 months, as a volunteer with CUSO-VSO. She is serving as education program advisor at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. From time to time, Maggie writes a blog: www.journeyrwanda.blogspot.com