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Gender Models in Rural Communities help Unite Families in Kenema

Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Tunkia and Normor Chiefdoms are rural Communities found in the Kenema District, in the Eastern Sierra Leone. For years, most of the women here suffer gender based violence, especially the Women who are mostly faced with the gender disparities. They fend for their homes and have to suffer doing domestic works while their husbands live in partial luxury with other wives at their own detriment.

For the men, one thing is very clear among them them. They are very honest and plain whenever they are approached. During my recent visit to these rural Communities with the assistance of SEND-SL to investigate some of these disparities that used to exist among families in these Chiefdoms, the men like their wives were bold enough to explain how they used to cope with each other despite family anomalies in these deprived communities.

Madam Amie Kallon, her Husband Ibrahim Kallon and children in Dagboma in Tunkia Chiefdom

Madam Amie Kallon is a Housewife of Ibrahim Kallon in Dagboma in Tunkia Chiefdom. The 47 year old Housewife has four children and all of them are very young. Before this time especially during the wet seasons, if she could not stand strong to fend for her children, they will have to starve for a living. She said “during the raining seasons, if I do not find wood to sell it will be difficult to have food to eat”.

Even though Ibrahim Kallon is over fifty years, he still used to have one or two concubines in the Village. He could leave Madam Amie at home struggling to mend fences while he crosses to another house or village to enjoy a night love. By the time he could return, Madam Amie Kallon could have been sleeping and he could he heard by neighbors knocking the door abruptly for his wife to open. Wow could befell her if he there waste a time opening the door. “I used to do these to my Wife because there was no awareness for me. It was bad for me not to show her some love”. He said “thanks to SEND-SL who had brought the Gender Model Family initiatives in this Chiefdom. With the training I had with their Multipliers, I am now living in peace and as one family with my Wife and Children”.

And Madam Amie Kallon is also appreciative of this. She confirmed “since the arrival of SEND-SL here, I no longer fend for myself. Thank God for my husband. He now takes cares of me and I no longer worry for the food I eat”.

But Madam Amie Kallon is not only among the many Wives facing some of these gender challenges in the Rural Communities. The 26 year old Amie Morie Kpaka is another Wife with a bitter experience. “I was the one responsible for doing all types of domestic work at home” she told me. She added “I was the one cooking, cleaning the house and the room and even doing hard work in the farm but from the time Mr. Mattia came from SEND-SL and advised all the men in the Chiefdom things have now changed. My husband now helps me to do most of the works and we leave in peace”.

Amie Kpaka’s husband, Morie Kpaka was so honest to explain what he used to do that was not bridging the peace within the family. “I was not used to giving her monies least to mention of sitting together and discuss. On a daily basis by then we will fight for this and even end up going to the Chief for settlement”. He added that when SEND-SL came and have a meeting with then and asked them about their families, they were able to explain some of these anomalies and were advised and counseling was given to them on how they should be living together peacefully in their homes.  “He advised us many things to do to help our homes” Morie said and “things like carrying loads and the children to and from the farm, assisting in cooking and many other things at home were part of the advise”.

The then Caretaker of the Normoh Chiefdom, Pa A.Z. Kamara explained some of the occurrences in his Chiefdom. According to him, his local administration office was “receiving many complaints of domestic violence in the Normoh Chiefdom” and that “some women were not respecting their husbands and vice versa due to treatment in the homes” but furthered that “they received training on gender models and how to love their wives”.

According to Ibrahim Mansaray, “the Gender Model Family is Project is an initiative which had brought happiness for them. He told me that he was “not used to sweeping like this in the house before now”. Even when he gets money, Ibrahim would not even invest any penny on his wife or family. Unfortunately, he preferred to “waste it by attending many social activities”. “Thanks to the introduction of the Gender Model family, all what I have used to do against the wishes of my family and wife are now things of the past”.

Ibrahim was already busy sweeping the compound in the morning while his Wife, Massa Mansaray was suckling the seven months old baby

Before this interview in the Village, Ibrahim was already busy sweeping the compound in the morning while his Wife, Massa Mansaray was suckling the seven months old baby.  For now, “while I will be engaged on cooking after coming from the farm, my Husband will take care of the Children and after I finished with the cooking, we all eat together” Massa said. Unlike in the past, “my husband will provide me with water to bath and after this, we sit together to discuss how we can better our Family” Massa added. All these were not happening before the introduction of the gender model family in the communities.

The Social Enterprise Mobilization for Development in Sierra Leone (SEND-SL) is a local nongovernmental organization that operates in the Kenema, Kailahun and now projecting in the Western Areas. For years, this organization has been seeking the welfare and interests of rural communities in the Kenema district with the main focus on their health. Just after the Ebola Epidemic, SEND and partners including the Government of Sierra Leone and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone was implementing a project entitled “prevention of zoonotic caused diseases” and within the project, there was the need for the introduction of Gender Models in these Communities.

The SEND’s Gender Model Family is a programme that sensitized and mobilized husbands to live equitably with their wives and to ensure that their boys and girl are given the same opportunities to develop their potentials.

The Program Officer at the SEND-SL, Mattia James explained that until the introduction of some gender models in these Chiefdoms, one thing was very clear here which a husband can marry as many wives as he can if the need arise or possibly have concubines and enjoy the love on the streets that is supposed to have been reserved for the wife or the family. “Our gender models is now impacting the Communities of Tunkia and Normoh Chiefdoms. We believed this will continue and it will enhance the living conditions of these families in these areas” Mattia said.

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