In male-dominated societies like Burkina Faso, wives are most to blame when marriages are in jeopardy. But a project funded by the World Bank is testing the concept of taking men to school and teaching them to be better husbands.
Yeli Ouigo, who is married to Kwama Zupoka, attended so-called “husband schools” to help her become a better spouse. The event was organized by Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD).
“Before attending classes, life as a couple was not easy,” Ouigo said.
He said that there was a time when he did not think that women and men had much in common regarding the problems of family life. But, after classes, he understood that they could complement and help each other.
Burkina Faso is a male-dominated society, but schools use a variety of teaching techniques, including role playing, to help men understand their wives’ needs and how to meet them – for example For, helping with the housework.
She also teaches men about women’s rights, family planning, health and hygiene. In addition, men are encouraged to involve women in family decision making.
Nabalu Bibata of the Association for the Promotion of Women and Children, coordinator of the project, said the classes have made a big difference for the women in the community. He added that some men have also been involved in the deliveries of their wives, which is part of the father taking over the responsibility of looking after the children.
And for village men who weren’t able to attend husband schools, Bibta said, men who attended have become role models.
Although these are the first schools of their kind in Burkina Faso, similar projects have been implemented in countries such as South Africa and Niger.
Edward Wageny, global head of the UN Women’s HeForshi Initiative, said husband schools can help reduce incidents of domestic violence.
“Acceptance that gender equality is not just about women and girls, gender equality is about everyone,” he said.
Vageni said husband schools could also be beneficial in countries outside Africa, where statistically gender equality is better than in Burkina Faso.
“So, this is a great idea that can be replicated and extended to other parts of the world as well, including countries that feel they have made a lot of profit,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zupoka said the classes have made her husband more helpful and considerate.
And the love between her and her husband is growing, she said, adding that her husband now brings her small gifts from the market as well.
Pati Schools’ national coordinator described the project as a resounding success, and said it would be expanded to other parts of the country. The second phase of the project is scheduled to start later this year.