You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2012.

It’s easy to criticize men in a country where “equality” and “women’s rights” are seldom talked about. It’s easy to focus on the men who beat their wives, pull their daughters out of school to marry them off, and constantly argue that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. None of these things are confined solely toMozambique, but living alone as an unwed woman here just exacerbates the daily reminders from men that I am not what they consider the norm. It’s easy to get frustrated and angry. It’s easy to lump all men into a single category of chauvinistic pig-headery (yes, that is a term I just made up but I think it provokes an imagery that is quite accurate). I have had many frustrating encounters with men where they try to convince me that I need them and cannot live without them and that they are actually doing me a favor by propositioning me because, after all, I am well on my way to becoming an old maid. As they sit at the bar sucking down beers and making kissing noises at me, I picture their wives and daughters at home washing clothes and cooking so that there will be dinner on the table whenever they decide to roll in. Living somewhere where girls are treated as inferior is trying. And while I praised the hard work of Mozambican women for Mother’s Day, I want to take a minute to do the same for Mozambican men. Many of them drive me insane, but it’s the ones who don’t who are truly making a difference. The men who have the strength to speak out against gender inequality and encourage young girls to stay in school are the ones who are trying to create a better future.

I was intent on brushing off all Mozambican men after several less-than-positive experiences with a particularly misogynistic group during training. They publicly cheated on their wives, wasted their money on cheap gin while their children walked around barefoot, and rambled on about how I needed them and all the wonderful things they had to offer. Watching their families suffer while they snored on the couch hungover was too much, and I decided that I would just focus on working with women. But then I met an amazing coworker who changed my mind. He studied to become a nurse and tells gruesome stories about stitching people up at knifepoint during the civil war. He worked tirelessly heading up the HIV/AIDS sector of our branch in Mopeia. And every chance he had, he pleaded with young girls to stay in school. He would pull teenage girls aside and list off the many reasons why they should wait to get married and have babies and study instead. On the weekends he said he preferred to stay home and spend some quality time with his wife and children.

Of course he isn’t the only example that comes to mind when I think of “good” Mozambican men. The entire male Peace Corps staff is amazing, and don’t get enough praise for all that they do to support volunteers in the field. There are teachers, businessmen, drivers, and the likes advocating for a better, more justMozambiquewhere women and men coexist without violence or prejudice. And they are the ones that should be given credit for going against the norm and standing up for their mothers, daughters, wives, and friends.

I am so lucky to have grown up in an environment of open-minded men. And I am lucky to have a father that has taught me to challenge myself and to never back down. My dad has been incredibly encouraging throughout my entire Peace Corps experience, especially when I was thinking about staying an extra year. His constant motivation has kept me going. When there was a rat living in my mattress and I wanted to quit, I thought about my dad laughing and reminding me that I would get through it and have a pretty good story in the end. When I was struggling to make friends in my new town, my dad told me to stick it out and that he knew I would adjust in no time. When I told him I was thinking about delaying coming home for another year, he told me to go for it and that he was proud of me for taking a risk. He is the reason why, as frustrated as I may get with men here, I continue on- because hearing him tell me that he’s proud of me is enough to keep me going. My dad has taught me many things in life, but the lessons that have really stuck with me are to never give up and to never stop dreaming. Thank you dad for the words of wisdom and constant support!

Advertisements

Address

Jordan Rief, PCV
Corpo da Paz/U. S. Peace Corps
Av. Do Zimbabwe 345
CP 4398
Maputo
Mozambique

Disclaimer

The contents of this blog are my personal thoughts and opinions. They do not represent the views or official policies of the Peace Corps or of the U.S. government.

Peace Corps Moçambique

Advertisements