Global Grassroots 2011 Year-End Magazine - Page 36

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Global Grassroots 2011

and gender inequality.

But Vianney himself – husband, father of three, dressed in faded black slacks and untucked, collared shirts – is also an individual force for change. He spends nights in the homes of men like Janvier and days mediating neighbors’ disputes. He is an ambassador for women’s rights among his fellow men.

Vianney talks of his “taking initiative to inspire the other men in this community and tell them that violating or abusing their wives is not something good. They shouldn’t be proud of that; they have to avoid and prevent it.” Changing male mindsets is a challenge, but he works slowly and steadily. “If I know that this man beats his wife, I come – not directly, not showing the person that I’m working on this project of fighting against violence. I’m indirect and pass around until I get to a point where I tell that person: if you beat your wife, these are the consequences… When you are talking to a man about these issues, it’s a long process to bring them to your level: what you are doing, and why you are doing it, and why you are telling them this. But once a man is listening – once he is allowing himself to hear what I am saying – I take advantage of the opportunity to give him advice.”

Vianney knows that it is important for the conversation to remain two-sided. He humbly explains the realities and consequences of abuse, and he gives suggestions of steps for change.

Sometimes, Vianney builds so much trust and good-will during these conversations that men ask him how they, too, can get involved in the Turwubake program. His collection of success stories is impressive. As a result of his follow-up efforts with Janvier and Marlène, for example,

Marlène now makes some income by re-selling charcoal – an enterprise that Janvier helped her begin. Janvier is no longer physically abusive, and the family resolves conflicts over finances without violence.

It is difficult to believe now, but before he began work with Turwubake, Vianney hadn’t discovered the strength of his individual voice. In fact, Vianney says that expressing his opinions publicly is “the talent I discovered from Global [Grassroots].” During training, the group would pass around a ring. When someone held the ring, they had to give their name and a statement or response. “This motivated me to express myself in public. Many people are ashamed or shy to do it.” Vianney’s new confidence in his voice allowed him “to take the initiative of sharing what I’ve learned or gained with others. It also motivated me to stand in a group of people and tell them things. I developed public speaking skills.”

Vianney is a very special man: patient, flexible, giving. Without him, Turwubake would not have finished program planning and begun operations in 2010. It would not be on its way to financial sustainability. It would have stalled during Jeanine’s recent maternity leave. But Vianney has also received something invaluable from his immersion in the organization: the confidence to stand up, in any home or street or neighborhood, as an individual ambassador for peace. It is a rare gift, in one’s life, to find a personal mission. Now, Vianney says, “In public I can stand and teach the community about the rights of a woman.” “I tell them, ‘I personally work on reducing the violence faced by women.’”