Wife-beating is a generally accepted form of domestic violence in one third of Mozambican households. A new generation of guys like Adao Joao Paia is taking a stand against this rugged mentality, by bringing men into the kitchen and changing their mentality towards women.
“Many men were raping their wives, and girls in their family. I thought that was what entailed a male to be respected. I thought that being a man and doing violent things to women and walk with many women, and act in a brutal way was the fashion. I guess you could say I was pretty lost“, Adao admits.
In 2013, Adao Joao Paia joined the HOPEM Men for Change Network. His views on the role of women and men in society changed dramatically. He points out:
“Here we learn a very different thing: a worthy man, a humble or united man participates in home care. He is an attentive man, a man who takes away violence and opts for dialogue.“
According to the 2010 ‘The World’s Women’-report by the UN, at least 1 in 3 Mozambican women has or will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Often this is a result of deep-rooted unequal power relations between women and men and gender-based discrimination. Up to 37% of women even justify and condone an occasional beating and accept it as a proper punishment. Although the law prohibits rape, it is not effectively enforced; large numbers of high school-age girls are still coerced into having sex by their teachers in order to pass to the next grade. And spousal rape, although common, is rarely reported.
The HOPEM Men for Change Network aims to turn the tide by connecting 25 civil society organizations and human rights activists. The network reaches out to men and boys between the ages of 15-49 to address gender equality issues, and steer away from harmful masculine behavior to improve the welfare of women, men and children in society. Adao explains,
“the goal is mainly to question, raise the issues and bring a solution here in order to involve more men for these household chores that are widely considered to be for women.”
Men in the Kitchen
HOPEM’s Men in the Kitchen program addresses violence against women and girls and promotes gender equality, by letting men participate in household activities. Adao enrolled in the program because he felt a responsibility towards the welfare of his family.
“I learned how to cook, and now I feel much love to go into the kitchen and prepare some food because I have received compliments from my little brothers and sisters, that makes me happier. Because after preparing, someone will definitely say this food tastes nice, I get amazed at myself sometimes”, says Adao.
The program educates and reflects on gender-related topics with workshops such as preparing nutritious recipes based on locally available ingredients. As part of an educational campaign, a mobile kitchen is used to arouse curiosity of men in public places, bars, and nightclubs. Since 2012, 846 young men have participated in the program, indirectly reaching over ten thousand people. Adao reflects,
“I think the men in the kitchen program comes our way to change the way of seeing things and take another position, another reflection, and try to create another society where the individual excels above all each of us. This is the society I desire.“
Adao now views himself as a role model for his peers. But not all of society is ready for such a revolution yet. He states:
“In Mozambique, it is not normal for men to get into the kitchen. I have no fear of being pointed at, to be called names, all I want is to be involved in full human rights and in the fight to combat violence.”
Adao has managed to bring change to his own family, and by doing so he has inspired many of his friends. He concludes,
“After preparing this dish I would like to invite all boys and men to choose this change of behavior and deconstruct stereotypes that a man can’t enter the kitchen. A real man is not afraid of equality.”