April 20, 2024

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Men’s Engagement in Sustainable WASH Practices: A Catalyst for Gender Equality

The Rwanda Young Water Professional (RYWP), in collaboration with WaterAid Rwanda and Bugesera District, organized the training on the engagement of men in gender-sensitive and climate-resilient WASH practices.

This training aimed to inspire participants to embrace new behaviors and attitudes aligned with the principles of gender equality in WASH practices.

Addressing gender disparities in water and sanitation, particularly the disproportionate burden placed on women, underscores the imperative of engaging men in household WASH activities to promote gender equality and an equitable distribution of responsibilities.

Ritha NISHIMWE, the Climate Resilient WASH Hub lead and specialist at Rwanda Young Water Professional, returning to the reason for training men, said that men are the strength of the community, but they are known to be absent from WASH practices.

She said, “We did this training hoping that men in particular would go their own way and be taught their role and how to be the object of change. Environmental protection and climate-resilient activities are its own.”

She added, “We invited three angles: religious leaders, school headmasters, and even family friends; all of them were men. The main reason is that, as the research shows, it is easy for men to influence others; the men’s word is heard in society.”

She revealed that in some of the participatory strategies, religious leaders can incorporate messages about the importance of sanitation and hygiene practices into their sermons, teachings, and community outreach programs, and men in leadership roles can lead by example by demonstrating good WASH practices in their daily lives.

She said, “It is good to teach men like these, religious leaders, people who can spread their message far and change the behavior and beliefs of their people, to help us so that this message can change people.”

She continued that the training aimed to deepen and invest in initiatives that encourage men to support women’s leadership, decision-making, and technical skills within the WASH sector.

Ritha noted that educational programs and mentorship initiatives can instill in boys the importance of hygiene and sanitation and encourage them to champion these practices within their families and communities.

She said, “Like the leaders of schools, because they have young students, it is easy to influence them, and the culture a child learns in school is the one he takes home, and he grows up to be with a man who understands that work is not for some but for sharing, that the home prospers.”

Pastor Celestin Nyirindekwe, the representative of religions and churches in the Shyara sector, said that this training is going to help them change the perception in the church, where they will add to the teachings and include the issues of equality and harmony in WASH practices.

He said, “I was surprised at this training because I didn’t know its purpose. It is important because when we read the Bible, in the culture of the Bible and the culture of Rwandans, we find that there was no such thing as equality.”

“So, you find that because of our beliefs based on the Bible, we are not giving equality and harmony between a man and a woman based on the culture and beliefs of the Bible, adding to the culture of Rwandans, but after this training, I found the culture has to grow, and the Bible goes with the times we live in.”

He continued that in their churches there is already a problem that women are only responsible for the activities of water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, something they are going to change quickly after this training.

He said, “Gender-sensitive must start with us, for example, such as the cleaning that was done at the church when we were preparing to pray, such as washing and other various cleanings that were often done by women, but now I’m going to leave and put them in different groups because what happens in the church will also reach their homes. I wonder if they will see a man cleaning the church that was previously seen to be done by women or girls; change will always come.”

He concluded by thanking the organizers of this training and asking them to continue elsewhere so that men in other areas can also know the importance of equality and harmony in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

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