New Initiative Helps Cultivate Healthy Masculinity

Raymond Okello working in his family’s garden. Source: Catholic News Service

Several years ago it would have been unheard of to find Raymond Okello, washing dishes, tending the kitchen garden, or caring for the baby when home. Like most Ugandan men, he would have shunned these roles and viewed them as “women’s work.”

However, thanks to the Nuyok program launched by the Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Okello’s views of traditional roles have changed. A member of a nomadic pastoralist community living a traditional agrarian life in the Karamoja area of northeastern Uganda, Okello, 24, said, “I feel I have changed for the better. I was not hardworking before. It was difficult for me to share these roles with my wife, but now I help and even share decisions with her every day.”

The long-term purpose of the project is to promote food stability in the region by embracing improved agricultural and nutritional practices. In the local Karamoja dialect, “Nuyok” means “it is ours.”

Since inception in 2019, the program has trained more than 1,500 men.

Another villager in Okello’s same area and program participant is Jimmy Orebo, 43. Nowadays, he can be seen working in the garden with his wife to help produce food for the family.

“We no longer buy tomatoes or vegetables from the market. I count this as a positive change occurring among us due to the project’s training. There are fewer fights over money in the house since we are sharing decisions,” Orebo said.

According to traditional customs, women in Karamoja culture are responsible for building the homes, growing the food, cooking, childcare, and collecting water.

Lillian Ojanduru, Nuyok’s technical advisor on gender said, “The idea is to shift some of the traditional norms that put women in inferior positions and burden them with a time-consuming workload.

“Sharing responsibilities and decisions will reduce the workload burden of women and also help to reduce gender-based violence. With buy-in from the traditional leaders, training and key messages being passed, attitudes are slowly shifting positively to sharing roles and responsibilities.”

At the start of the program, the gender imbalance tends to be high. However, with time facilitators noted that after two years there began to be noticeable shifts.

As the men’s roles shift, organizers are optimistic that the load-sharing will not only reduce food insecurities but also improve life incomes.

Source: Catholic News Services