Mozambican Couple Achieves Gender Equality Through Male Champion Strategy

This story was submitted and written by Zacarias Chuquela, District Community Involvement Assistant for Friends in Global Health (FGH), Vanderbilt's affiliate organization working in rural Mozambique. Gender-based Violence – Male Champion strategy

Mr. Horácio João is 55 years old and lives in Morrumbala District of Zambézia Province Mozambique, where he resides with his wife, Maria, and their six children. When Horácio was a young boy, it was engrained in his mind that the man was the head of the household, and that no one should have more decision-making power beyond him. He was taught that a man should be strong, decisive, courageous, and able to master a woman.

His wife, Maria, lived her life with the understanding that she was not to decide on anything at home without Horácio present. Her husband felt that the wife is the equivalent of a servant or worker, because in marrying her, the man would have paid her family. For this reason, Horácio also believed that when going to farm, the woman should carry everything, such as firewood, gallons of water on her head - even when pregnant she should take or do whatever her husband wants. As a man, he should only take a radio in his hand and his machete. According to Horácio, when he wants to have sex it should never be a problem; the woman should be available for this. Even if she doesn’t want this, the woman should satisfy her husband, and if she refuses, she should be hit.

Figure 1 - An old photo of Horácio and Maria leaving their farm

When Horácio learned of Mariano Mapulango, a “Male Champion” living in his neighborhood, he asked for help and Mariano shared that he’d been meeting weekly with a group of local men, with the concern that it would be better to do part of it, they agreed Horácio would become part of the group.

From that point, as the region’s male champion, Mariano began by addressing various issues in his lectures with the men. When the theme of gender-based violence was addressed, Horácio later shared that he was quite embarrassed and began to change his behavior, no longer beating Maria. The change was so drastic that Maria later met with the Mariano, seeking to know what kind of medicine he had given to her husband. She shared with him, ‘for as long as we’ve been together it seems there was not a day without him wanting to beat me!’

Mariano assured Maria that he had not given Horácio any medicine and explained that his participation in their conversations may have been the influence. These group discussions among local men about masculinity and the disadvantages of partner violence may have resonated with Horácio, and he decided to change his behavior.

Figure 2 - Maria and Horácio have explored reversing some of their previous roles as he carries the firewood and water.

Horácio shared recently, "I was lost, and in all that I did, I was not viewing my wife as a person like me, that the needs that I have are the same with my wife, the pain I feel is the same with my wife. Now I can wash dishes, carry firewood when I leave the farm, even cook, because I understand that I will not be any less of a man for helping my wife."

In fact, Horácio is now seen as an exemplary individual in the neighborhood, counseling other men not to follow the path of violence, even asking if there are volunteer opportunities to support others in the community. He continues to actively advise others in his neighborhood and grow in his understanding of gender equality.

Figure 3 - Horácio and Maria are now living happily together, dividing tasks such as washing dishes

                  (Note: photo consent was properly obtained for all photos in story)