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Monday, October 24, 2016

Camp BRO Butha Buthe-Empowering Men in Gender Equality

Boys practice leadership by leading one another through a
minefield of over one hundred chairs.
It is Saturday morning. I stand up to add a few questions to my friend and fellow PCV Rachel's session on power in relationships and consent. 

She had started the session with a fantastic game in which some of the boys had all the power and the remaining boys were powerless; in this case, forced to do whatever the other boys told them to do. As her discussion wound down, it seemed like not everyone has followed the jump from their feelings during the game to the discussion in sexual relationships. 

I ask them why girls do not walk along near sunset. "Because they will be raped Madam," a bright young man named T'sepo tells me. I then ask why girls will travel longer routes to avoid bars or isolated areas. A multitude of boys jump in, replying, "They will be raped."

I explain that unwanted sex is painful-physically, mentally, and emotionally. I ask them if they want their mothers, their sisters, and their future wives living through something so devastating. I share that Lesotho has the third highest rate of reported rapes in the world. The boys quickly point out that most women do not report because they will be beaten, stigmatized, or even killed.

I remind the boys that they have been chosen as leaders for Camp BRO-Boys Respecting Others-and as leaders in their schools and communities, they are the ones with the power to change things.

I see nods of agreement with all these things until a boy in the front row politely asked, " But Madam, what if a girl is torturing me by wearing a short skirt?"

From there, the discussion gets lively as my Mosotho friend Julia and I try to encourage their discussion and open their minds.
We address the same issues filling Twitter and Facebook in America. The same day we are doing this session, a certain Presidential candidate made headlines for his recorded comments suggesting his money gives him the right to assault women. While my internet is filled arguments and justifications, the boys are arguing back and forth about whether equality in sexual relationships might reduce their own masculinity and power. 

I found it embarrassing to be an American abroad trying to teach consent as media around the globe broadcast Mr. Trump's comments. Although I acknowledged rape is an issue in American, I struggled internally with the reality that rape is still a too often accepted part of my own culture while teaching another culture that it is unacceptable. 

I wish I could say that none of these amazing youth men will ever coerce or rape a woman. Statistically, that is unlikely in a country where a survey of adolescents (15-19 years old) showed that 28% of males and 27% of females  believe a girl does not have the right to refuse sex in a relationship*. Even more upsetting, 55% of males and 54% of females did not consider "forcing sex with someone you know" to be sexual violence or rape*. At the same time, if they lively session impacted the future actions of only a handful of these young men, I will consider is a success. 
It is these boys-chosen by their schools to attend and now participating in four days of Camp BRO then tasked with starting a club when they return home-who can spread positive impact. After sessions on leadership, communication, sexual and reproductive health, HIV, positive role models, goal setting, and other critical life skills, they concluded camp by planning their first club meetings. 

As they departed camp, I was overwhelmed at saying goodbye. I had bonded with these boys in incredible ways during the short camp. I spent my down time hanging out with them in the hall or chatting around the campfire, gathering my energy through our amazing conversations instead of through relaxing with staff or alone. 
*Statistics are from: 
Chipatiso, Linda Musariri et al. “The Gender-Based Violence Indicators Study: Lesotho.” Gender Links 2014.

Campers add their role model to the wall-role models included Nelson Mandela, President Obama, people in their communities and more! 

The dark and bright sides of condom demonstrations

Campers decide which statements about sexual health are "Facts" and which are "Nonsense".
Campers avoid risks such as multiple partners, older partners, and more in a game about risks in sexual relationships.

One of the advisors uses ARVs (the blanket) to "hold back" the spread of HIV within an HIV positive person's body. 

Campers demonstrate positive communication in a skit. 

The newest BROs of Botha Bothe!

BRO Camp: making superheros throughout Lesotho!

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