Using male role models to change gender norms

February 2017

Blog

Our experience shows that to change gender norms on access to, control over and ownership of resources and benefits, strengthening the dialogue between men and women is essential. In the Empowerment in Rice Value Chains project, SNV uses male role models – champions of change – as a key element.

The project targets 15,000 female smallholder rice farmers in four rural districts in Tanzania. 

Through this project we support the establishment of women producer groups in order to strengthen the position of women in the rice value chain. The groups receive training on gender norms and good agricultural practices. We cooperate with village elders and leaders to create sustainable results and use Community Youth Theatre groups to trigger community sensitisation on gender equality. Youth groups were trained on gender equality and they are mainstreaming gender into their routine activities. Male individual role models  – champions of change  – are also used to influence the attitudes of men and women on gender issues.

As a result, some men in the target communities are now supporting their wives by for example taking up household chores and contributing to the families' basic needs. Women now have the opportunity to join economic groups or own resources that are used in rice production such as water and improved quality seeds. An increased number of women are now sharing the land title deeds with their husbands and more men are involving their spouses in decision-making.

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Augustin Agaston Mikupi (50 years old) is one of the male role models that SNV works with to influence local gender norms. He has three daughters and lives in the Kilombero district. He is a member of a smallholder rice farmer group and also grows maize. Augustin is Wandimba. In Wandimba tradition, women do not have any rights to own land or other production resources. Augustin joined the Empowerment in Rice Value Chains project in 2015 and is one of the few participating male Wandimba farmers.

According to Augustin, the project touches upon one of the most difficult issues in the community: access to and ownership of land and resources, issues that cause conflicts in many households.

"This project comes at a right time. It is a time in which many families are fighting over resources like land, access to land, farm products after being harvested. The Wandiba tradition is very strict when it comes to ownership of land. Land is a problem here, we are surrounded by mountains which are in nature reserves and companies grabbed our lands many years ago. So land is a precious commodity. This is why land belongs to men, fathers or husbands. A woman has no right at all. She can work and benefit from its produce but not claim it to be hers. When couples establish a family like I did many years ago, the family of the groom gives land to their son. When couples divorce, women can claim only the kitchen utensils and other domestic things but never the land."

Augustin attended trainings and understood what it means to switch to modern agriculture, but as it was the first season, he didn’t have time to apply the knowledge on his own farm, so he has not yet seen any concrete benefits. He is now preparing for the next season in which he plans to apply the knowledge unassisted. Some of the project highlights for Augustin were the sessions on gender issues. He states they changed him as a person and as a Wandimba man. He became particularly concerned by the relationship between husband and wife, the rights of women and the difference between gender and sex. The right to own land is the topic that touched him the most.

"I own land. I got it together with my wife. I have three daughters and the oldest is married. After she got married, I thought to myself and, especially after the project: what inheritance will I give to my daughter? I decided to give her a two acre-farm. I discussed the idea with my wife and she gave her blessing. I then asked my brothers and they supported the idea as well. And as long as my close family members agree, I do not care what others think. I then informed the village authority about my decision and was also supported by project staff. Afterwards I informed my daughter about my decision at a family gathering. She cried all throughout the meeting because she didn’t expect it. After this traditional hand-over was done, we formalised the deed. I wrote: ‘I, Augustin Agaton Mikupi, have decided to give my daughter Emaculatha Agaton Mikupi, two acres of land from today’. I then signed and the village authority stamped it."

Augustin has decided to give two acres to his other two daughters. He will be left with four acres that will be sufficient to feed himself and his wife if they follow the good agricultural practices the project has taught them. Augustine appreciates the insights he gained from the project and feels empowered to challenge the existing gender norms. He now involves his wife when deciding about their future. His message to other Wandiba men is that daughters are their children and they have the same rights as sons to own land. The time of sending them off to men and hoping they will be cared for is gone.