By Annabelle Timsit, Quartz Africa, October 8, 2019
Like many three-and-a-half year olds, Odille Igirimbabazi loves to sing and dance. On a recent morning in her home, wearing her favorite blue and yellow dress and clutching a doll that her dad, James, made for her, she sings religious songs and sways energetically as James watches, claps, and smiles, tapping his feet. When she finishes, he scoops her up into his arms to tell her how proud he is. “Bravo!”
If this seems a common family scene, in Rwanda it is not. Mothers, not fathers, are deemed to be children’s caregivers, and violence between parents and children, and husbands and wives, is common. In a 2010 survey conducted by Promundo, a nonprofit, 57% of women said their partners were violent with them. Men in Rwanda “are kind of seen as a threat to children rather than a support to children,” says Gary Barker, president of Promundo.
A team of government officials, nonprofits, and academics is trying to change that with Sugira Muryango (“Strengthening Families”), a program to help parents—especially fathers—become more supportive caregivers. By improving relationships in the home, the group hopes to reduce violence, support the development of children, and ultimately reduce poverty in Rwanda.