Real men change nappies

“It’s perfectly normal. If a man can get a woman pregnant, then surely he can change a nappy.” That’s the belief of Lemien Saka, editor and blogger for RNW Media’s Habari RDC platform. The Habari team are currently in the thick of a two-month online and offline campaign aimed at promoting positive masculinity and fighting deeply rooted sexist attitudes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Using the hashtag #VraiMobali (Real Man in Lingala), Habari is partnering with local organisations Si Jeunesse Savait, Afia Mama  and Sofepadi to promote the campaign which includes a series of  offline workshops with young people in cities across DRC. RNW Media’s DRC-based Love Matters platform Amour Afrique is also taking part and joining Habari in publishing a range of articles videos and social media posts.

Rethinking masculinity
In a blog discussing what #VraiMobali is – and isn’t – aiming to do, Lemien Saka writes:

#VraiMobali has always been identified in our society as being virile, not emotional, the one who provides for the family, the one who directs and dominates society. This perception has only contributed to building an unequal society in an era in which women are empowered and equal opportunities are advocated. Shouldn’t we rethink the concept of masculinity of the Congolese man?

The campaign has attracted international media attention, with broadcaster France24 featuring Saka and other members of the Habari team in a video about their work.

‘Amused and flabbergasted’
#VraiMobali has resulted in many lively discussions on Habari’s various channels with some critics claiming it is an attack on Congolese men and an attempt to ‘westernise’ the country’s culture. Looking at the reactions, there is, writes Habari blogger Guy Muyembe, “reason to be amused and downright flabbergasted.” Analysing some of the opinions expressed, Muyembe goes on to quote French thinker, writer and feminist Simone De Beauvoir.

All these reactions amused me and made me think of Simone De Beauvoir when she said: “No one is more contemptuous of women than a man worried about his virility.” Because everywhere I saw men who wondered if they were not at risk of losing the place which is “due” to them – in this case that of the dominant one.

Habari RDC is also calling on the Ministry of Education to include gender equality in the school curriculum. The campaign will be running until the end of July and the content created for #VraiMobili is collected in a special dossier on the Habari RDC site.