The life of Mozambican communities is typically organized in physical and social spaces that are predominantly male or female dominated. Through these spaces stereotypes for men and women are generated and reproduced, and these stereotypes are often constraining and discriminative. Because of this social organisation, male participation in a number of housework duties (cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, etc) is traditionally minimized since the home is not seen as a “male domain”. Common perceptions on men’s appropriate or inappropriate roles and responsibilities cause men to be excluded and to exclude themselves from active participation in these fields.
As many studies have documented, this pattern results in (and replicates) deep socioeconomic inequalities between men and women. It also makes it impossible for many young men to strengthen their life skills and to enjoy the pleasures associated with housework. Because of gender stereotypes, male participation in the domestic sphere is not seen beyond “putting food on the table”.
Furthermore, the cultural exclusion and thus self-exclusion of men from domestic work is one of the reasons for domestic violence against women. In fact, research and media reports consistently demonstrate that, in many cases, violence against women is a result of male efforts to “punish” their partners for “faults” committed in the domestic realm, which is constructed as female (therefore it is supposed that any failure in this realm should be the “woman’s fault”).
Against this context, the Men for Change Network, HOPEM, has partnered with the Institute for the Promotion of Small and Medium Companies, IPEME, (a government agency) to implement the Men in the Kitchen program. The programme aims to (1) increase male engagement in domestic duties by increasing male participants’ knowledge on cooking, nutrition, hygiene and agro-processing, (2) contribute to the reduction of violence against women as a result of rigid social norms for men and women; and (3) challenge, in a very practical way, stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that reproduce social inequalities between men and women, hindering their personal development.
The programme was launched with a training session, held between May 21st and 25th, and attended by 28 men aged between 18 and 64 years old. At the end of the training, Naidu Mathe, one of the youngest participants, commented: “I did not know how to work in the kitchen and the training encouraged me to get near the pots. We should not push women to the kitchen because men can also do this work.”
Another participant, Marcolino Nhancale, welcomed the training because according to him men do not have the culture of going to the kitchen, mainly in Southern Mozambique where he comes from. If a man does housework he will be seen as a man that was “put in the bottle.”
Together we’re working to help men think out of the box, and “out of the bottle!”
By Julio Langa, HOPEM, Mozambique