Selfhelp groups: Everyone says women are social drivers, but men are active, too!

imageEverywhere strong women are changemakers in the society. In rich and in poor countries. Many publications and articles pay attention to their achievements. Social organizations set up programs around women and support self-help groups for women, women are celebrated as social entrepreneurs, women taking care on health and children education are interviewed and celebrated. Women are known to think more about their families and to take over more responsibilities in the social environment. There is a lot of truth in it, without doubt.

But what about men?

Which real chance and support do they get? How is their role seen by many NGOs? Is there a balance of support? Why men are seen – especially in the developing countries and poor living conditions – as those who prefer alcohol to family care? Many do. It is true. But why?
Why in India a several hundred thousands of farmers have committed suicide in the last decade? Probably, there are many reasons, but what if they had had some perspectives? Why I saw young men sitting close to the doors and observing female self help groups when we discussed with the women and they showed us proudly their success? No one talked to them, no one paid attention to the boys and young men meanwhile the young girls and women got all eyes on them?

I won’t forget one situation I lived some months ago in one of the remote top mountain villages in rural India. We had spent several hours there and were received by some very engaged women, organized since five, six years in a self help group. When we arrived they had joined us, one by one, many of them wearing their group dress: a self help group sari. The one they wear when they are invited to a workshop, to come to the learning center or when visitors are coming… They were fantastic. Engaged. They could show proudly their savings over the last years. They could talk about their actual challenges. Discuss their plans. We took a photo together. Then a second, a third…
When we were about to go, a middle-aged man contacted me. He had observed us from a corner when we took the photos. He asked – rather timid and shy- if I were interested maybe to spend five minutes with him and the male self help group, as well. “We here in the village have founded a male group a two years ago,on our own … We also can show you our meeting books, our savings…”.
It was an eye-opener. And I understood: although many social workers, changemaking organizations and conference speeches on development opportunities and examples will stress out that women are the way to make a change for good, we should not forget about the men.
They are as important as women. And a better world need both.

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