Kongoussi, Burkina Faso — In male-dominated societies like Burkina Faso, wives are most often blamed when marriages run into trouble. But a project funded by the World Bank is testing the concept of teaching men how to be better husbands by taking them to school.
Yeli Ouigo, who is married to Kwama Zoupoka, attended so-called “husband schools” to help him become a better spouse. The program was organized by the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD).
“Before taking part in the classes, life as a couple wasn’t easy,” Ouigo said.
He said that there was a time when he didn’t think that women and men had much in common when it came to problems with family life. But, after the classes, he understood they can complement and help each other.
Burkina Faso is a male-dominated society, but the schools use a variety of teaching techniques, including role plays, to help the men understand the needs of their wives and how to meet them – for example, helping with housework.
They also teach the men about women’s rights, family planning, health and hygiene. In addition, men are encouraged to include women in making family decisions.
The coordinator of the project, Nabalou Bibata of the Association for the Promotion of Women and Children, said the classes have made a big difference to women in the community. Some men have even attended the childbirth of their wives, she added, which is part of assuming responsibility for the care of the children by the fathers.
And for the men of the village who weren’t able to participate in the husband schools, Bibata said, the men who did attend have become role models.
Although these are the first schools of their kind in Burkina Faso, similar projects have been implemented in countries like South Africa and Niger.
Edward Wageni, global head for the U.N. Women HeForShe Initiative, said the husband schools can help reduce incidents of domestic violence.
“The acknowledgement that gender equality is not just about women and girls, gender equality is about everybody,” he said.
Wageni said the husband schools also could be beneficial in countries outside Africa, where statistically gender equality is better than Burkina Faso.
“So, this is a good idea that can be replicated and even scaled up in other parts of the world, including those countries that feel they have made a lot of gains,” he said.
Zoupoka, meanwhile, said the classes have made her husband much more helpful and considerate.
And the love between her and her husband is growing, she said, adding that her husband now even brings her little gifts from the market.
The national coordinator of the husband schools called the project a resounding success, and said it will be expanded to other parts of the country. The second phase of the project is due to start later this year.