Action Research on Community Dialogue Addressing Masculinities to End VAW&G 2012-13

There have been different works towards women’s empowerment. Our government has been working with the oath of improving women’s situation by adopting different women friendly policy like free education up to degree level, quotas in work sector and so on. Thus there is no doubt that there are resources for women with which she can practice her agency. But it is not the whole of the story. There prevails patriarchal gender order where men in general possess some power over women and thus they act as the “Gatekeepers” of both material and social resources. So we will not be able to uphold women’s situation unless we start working with the men. The concern should be to change men’s negative practices. If we can bring positive masculinities into the light, then men will have alternative ways to practice other than patriarchal practices. And that was indeed prime objective of this action research.

The story behind the Action Research

CMMS conducted an action research at Rangpur, Pabna, Natore and Sirajganj District between December 2012 – June 2013 that aimed to take an in-depth look at the outcome of the implementation of the community dialogue facilitation tool for women empowerment and gender equality developed by Dr. Saikh Imtiaz for Department of Women Affairs (DWA), Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Based on the overall assessment of the community dialogue facilitation tool, the prime concern of the action research project was to understand men’s subjectivity in relation to institutional practices in the study area to find out how and why men behave differently with regard to violence against women.

The community dialogue facilitation tool was used for the research along with community dialogue sessions with 7000 men and women that was designed to identify real cases of enactment of positive and negative masculinities from the community. The sessions tried to see how men react to such cases in relation to the practices in their own life and whether such training session helps to initiate self-reflexive processes among men.

The main focus of the action research was the initiation of Community Dialogue which was to raise self-reflexivity among the men with regard to VAW&G. In order to develop the training manual for this action research, thirty two existing gender training manual from different governmental and nongovernmental bodies were reviewed to see whether and how these manuals addressed men and masculinity issues. The manual that guided the Community Dialogue Facilitation was one of the major things in this research that gained insights about women’s needs, revealing issues relevant to their lives and making effective and sustainable endeavors.

The manual was developed in five phases namely assessing the training need, developing the training manual, training workshops for field testing the manual, developing Practice Change Communication Material (PCC) and finalizing the Training manual based on the feedback from the field tests.

Theory of Change

Interviewing women, 10 different issues were identified as their need from their own perspective. These are:

  1. Birth of a girl child
  2. Dowry
  3. Female Education
  4. Early marriage
  5. Wife Battering
  6. Health Care during Pregnancy
  7. Marriage Registration
  8. Sexual Harassment
  9. Polygamy
  10. Household Chores

Interviewing men, their experience and perspective were known gaining an insight about their opinion with regard to the gender trainings. After interviewing the men 3 crucial issues were found –

  1. Men somehow felt offended in the gender training as they think that gender trainings try to state that they are incorrect as men.
  2. Recognition of positive practice/positive men is virtually missing.
  3. Men want to follow men as standard not women.

Thus from the interview of the men it was conferred that Men without feeling threatened can change the situation.

The 10 areas of intervention mentioned above were selected for 10 different chapters of the manual. Besides, the manual was developed based on the concerns raised by men too.

  • Avoiding jargon and theories: no jargons or theories were used so that it does not seem to be something from outside rather than from their own life. The manual was written in easy words so that they can relate it with their lives. 
  • Experiential learning as pedagogy: Men (practicing hegemonic masculinity) will learn from men (practicing positive masculinity): Experiences of positive masculinities were stated which were from their own contextual background so that men practicing hegemonic masculinity can realize that alternative practices are possible even from their own context.
  • Graphical/Illustrative presentation; Easy to understand: There was graphical/illustrative presentation so that the participants do not feel bore and can understand easily.
  • Gender Trainer’s role is more to facilitating the session rather than giving training: facilitator (if male)himself is part of the training process: The role of the gender trainer was minimized so that everyone can participate and can go through a self-reflexive process. The facilitator will be a part of the training process too.
  • Targeting traditional hegemonic masculine practices: Creating self reflexive processes: Traditional hegemonic masculine practices were targeted so that they can relate those to their lives and can realize the effects of those. Thus the self-reflexive process will be initiated which will, hopefully, bring change in practice. Then will come our  Moment of Truth.