I am Generation Equality: Joseph Mujiji, Burundian activist changing men’s attitudes to end violence against women
Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.
Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Three things you can do to become part of Generation Equality:
- Parents must promote gender equality through sharing the care at home.
- Men must lead by example, respecting and involving their wives in all decision-making.
- Young people must show mutual respect.
I am Generation Equality because …
My daily struggle is to achieve equality between men and women.
Before founding the Coalition of Men Against Violence Against Women (CHOVIFE), I worked for several years with Ligue Iteka, the first human rights organization in Burundi. Seeing the disproportionate number of women victims of violence compared to other categories of victims made me realize that we were missing a key factor: women's rights. That’s what gave me the idea to focus my work on women.
In 2008, I created CHOVIFE to strive for equality between men and women. In Burundi, according to the law and religious beliefs the man is considered the head of the household. As such, he must ensure the education, health care, food and safety of his family. I told myself that by working with men we could eradicate violence and achieve gender equality in our society. I always say that men, being often the perpetrators of the violence against women, are also the solution to this problem.
“Gender inequality is the most urgent issue in Burundi today. And it is only men who can solve this problem.”
What are the most urgent issues of our time?
Gender inequality is the most urgent issue in Burundi today. And it is only men who can solve this problem.
We are an unequal society where women, who are the majority of the population and contribute significantly to the country’s economy, do not benefit from the results of their efforts. Burundian women are still not adequately represented in political, economic and social life. Discriminatory laws on inheritance and limited access to decision-making positions are at the heart of the problem.
People often say that women are unfit for leadership roles, yet girls rank first places in schools all across the country. How could they not be fit to excel in public life?
How can men be a part of the solution?
I have been working on changing men’s attitudes and behaviors towards women through awareness-raising and training sessions since 2018. Sexuality, violence, gender and power, sharing of domestic work and sexual consent are the most debated topics.
Though my work, I have seen many men gradually changing their attitudes, stop their violent behaviors and become champions of gender equality in their homes and communities.
I remember, for example, a young miner who, during a session, publicly committed to start an open dialogue with his wife and children and to take all important decisions in agreement with his wife. Another testimony that left a lasting impression on me was that of a young man who went on to become a counsellor on family planning and HIV. He is now a role model for his peers and works with men to change their behaviors and safeguard the health of their families.
After the training, each participant spreads their knowledge through their families and communities. That’s how men become part of the solution.
Joseph Mujiji is a human rights activist since 1990. He is the founder of the Coalition of Men against Violence against Women (Coalition des hommes contre les violences faites aux femmes, or CHOVIFE) in Burundi.