By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
On Friday, July 8, 2022, the Rwanda Men’s Resource Center (RWAMREC) unveiled to the journalists the key findings of the Bandebereho Randomized Control Trial, a six year gender transformative program that uses fatherhood as am entry-point to promote men’s engagement in maternal, newborn and child health, caregiving, violence prevention and healthier couple.
The programme which started in 2013 as pilot was implemented by RWAMREC in collaboration with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre through its Maternal Child and Community Health Division, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and Promundo.
The program started in Musanze, Karongi, Rwamagana and Nyaruguru districts. Two years after its implementation, that is in 2015 a baseline study was conducted and the results showed that it was productive based on its objectives.
According to RWAMREC, the pilot showed that Bandebereho resonated with the participating couples.
Presenting the results of the trial program, Kate Doyle, Promundo Fellow explained that in 2015, they randomly recruited about 1200 couples, who are eligible to participate in the program and participate in various sessions.
After the pilot phase, RWAMREC and Promundo conducted the evaluation of the project through a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 1,199 families to rigorously assess the impact on participating families.
Compared to the control group, at 21-months post baseline (16 months post intervention), participating couples reported greater reduction in violence against women and in physical punishment of children, lower rates of men’s threats of violence against children, higher rates of male partner support during pregnancy and men accompanying women to atleast 2 ANC visits, greater father involvement in childcare, greater couple communication, less dominance of men in households decisions, greater sharing of household work and more equitable gender attitudes.
To assess the sustainability of the above mentioned outcomes, the program was later focused on Musanze District only. It targets couples in all villages to adapt, and testing the delivery of Bandebereho through the health system as part of the transition to scale.
“Six years later, we were interested to understand all of those positive changes that we saw earlier on the programme.” Ms. Kate said
“So we wanted to know: are those positive changes still there? Are couples still experiencing improved relationships, improved parenting? Are children benefiting also from those changes?” she added.
“So we wanted to go back and interview the same men and women six years later and understand, yes, whether those changes are consistent, but also whether these changes that we’re seeing in the household and parents’ relationships with each other and with their children are actually helping to improve children’s outcomes as well.” Ms. Kate explained
She revealed that many of the outcomes which were previously seen have been sustained six years later.
Among the sustained outcomes are that women who participated with their partners experienced considerably less violence from their partner than women in the control room. These include less physical violence, less sexual violence, but also less economic violence, and less emotional violence.
“And we know that all these different forms of violence have a really significant impact on women’s mental health and well being and physical health, but also on the children’s well being and development.” Ms. Kate commented.
Apart from lessening violence, Ms. Kate also added that it’s also building new skills for couples on how they can resolve conflicts without resorting to violence.
“So not only are men and women who are participating, experiencing these changes, but these changes are also visible to those in their communities and their friends and their neighbours and community leaders.” she said
“They’re seeing that the intervention is having an impact in changing how couples are relating to each other and reducing violence within the home creating harmony.” Ms. Kate added.
Journalists speak out
During the presentation of the results of the Bandebereho program, journalists were given the opportunity to comment and highlight the need for RWAMREC to step up its efforts in campaigning against gender based violence even among the rich and high profile people.
Emma Marie Umurerwa of IRIBA NEWS said that such research should not only focus on the rural population but also on the urban population and add that it should focus on the homes of prominent people including leaders because there is unreported gender based violence in their families.
Without citing any one’s name, Ms. Emma observed that “such programs should also target families of Rich people and leaders because there are types of violence against women in such homes and they are not reported.”
According to the Executive Director of RWAMREC, Fidele Rutayisire, the programme is going to enter the next phase that will lead to the country wide implementation.
“After the implementation of the Bandebereho programme in Musanze district in particular, there is a plan to combine the implementation Burera and Gakenke districts and later continue throughout the country,” he said.
“We still have many more to teach through this gender transformative program,” he added.
He explained that the reason why men are mostly targeted is because they are one of the key factors that can lead to positive changes in various aspects.