- Claire McFarlane
What I learnt talking with men in Rwanda
It's not about he. It's not about she. It's about us! One of the biggest impacts I've noticed as I run around the world, is that men want to join in to this dialogue on sexual violence. During my run in Rwanda back in September 2016, two local men joined me for the whole 16 kilometres. We run along the shores of Lake Kivu in Gisenyi and right on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A group of ladies also joined the run but they ran for a shorter distance. One of the men was from Rwanda and other man came across from the DRC to run with me.
As we ran, we talked in depth about my rape and also about their lives as men in Africa. For them, it was the first time that they could talk so freely about sexual violence with a woman. For me, it was the first time I heard how hard it is to be a man in Africa and how hard it is to go against social norms to be a different man in Africa. These two men wanted to be examples in their community of 'positive masculinity' but it came with a struggle. A struggle of acceptance from others and battling the risk of rejection by their families.
I think we changed the world a little on this run.
What I'm realising as I peacefully connect with people all over the world is that we all have a story and we all are struggling to find our way: Women and Men. If we can show each other compassion, to listen and feel each others struggles, we create understanding and ultimately change. I challenge you, woman or man, to take 10 minutes out of your day and ask the opposite sex something about their viewpoint on a subject, their life or their experience. Talk and listen. Don't interrupt or downgrade what they say. Don't jump to conclusions or get impatient. Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they are saying. That's when the magic will happen.
Suddenly it is no longer about he or she. It's about us!