Success Story

Amadoda Emadodeni: What it Means to be a Man

“Indoda Emadodeni” (a man among men) is an Ndebele phrase used to distinguish a man who has accomplished feats of machismo in relation to his peers. The USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance-funded Amalima Loko activity is working with men across Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, to reframe the term to distinguish men as leaders for gender norms change in their community.

Bra Ndosi is one of 12 men who are members of a “Male Champions” group in Nkayi district which formed in November 2022. These groups are part of a campaign led by Amalima Loko, which first began under the predecessor activity Amalima (2013-2020) in Matabeleland South. Local leadership and community members select male participants for the voluntary social groups, which seek to motivate and inspire men in target communities to become advocates for them and their peers to share in more responsibilities around the home and more equally carry the load of care work traditionally managed by women.

The approach recognizes that gender norms are often so entrenched in society that those impacted by them have never stopped to consider their effects. As men become more aware of the harmful nature of women bearing primary responsibility for the care work of the household and family, and begin to share more in those responsibilities, women are able to contribute more towards the productive advancement of the family, and children benefit from male involvement in child rearing and family health and nutrition, ultimately improving the wellbeing of the household.

“I was inspired by the realization that my wife performs more duties around the house than I do,” Ndosi said. “And unconsciously, I was taking that for granted because I thought that was her obligation towards me and the rest of the family. She would cook, go to the fields and take care of the children while I had few duties to attend to.”

Amalima Loko’s approach to Indoda Emadodeni as a behavior-change campaign seeks to address a variety of deep-rooted gender norms within communities, such as the household roles Ndosi references. Following the member identification process, the men commit to participating in a series of sessions facilitated by Amalima Loko. The sessions focus on analyzing behaviors around childcare, maternal and child nutrition and household hygiene and sanitation practices, and the role men play in these areas and in their families’ overall food security. The sessions aim to emphasize the subtle ways gender norms are perpetuated within families and communities and better equip men to support family nutrition and health and to have productive dialogues on these topics within their communities.

Ndosi’s Male Champions group has adopted the name “Amadoda Emadodeni” (men among men), inspired by the name of the approach. Since joining the group, Ndosi reports that he is now more open to learning skills around the household and better understands the importance of his family eating healthy.

“I have been learning household chores such as drying vegetables and taking care of the children in the absence of my wife,” Ndosi said. “She encourages me to come to these sessions because she has experienced firsthand how they have helped us in our marriage.”

In less than a year as a Male Champion, Ndosi’s family has improved their eating habits due to their better understanding of household nutrition and food security. When his group discussed types of nutritional foods infants, children and pregnant and lactating women need, Ndosi shared that he realized how men can support their families to get these types of food.

“I used to jealously guard my livestock because, to me and the society that I live in, that is what defined me as a man among men,” he said. “I realized that the livestock we possess are meant to take care of my family and not the other way around. Now I can afford to slaughter a chicken or a goat for my family more often, because I understand the importance of my wife and children eating healthy.”

The Indoda Emadodeni campaign first developed by Amalima to promote behavior change reached over 6,400 men, and some groups are still active. In November 2022, Amalima Loko visited one of the original Male Champions groups formed in November 2015 in Siphepha, Tsholotsho, and found that the 10 members continue to meet, even with COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place in recent years. During the visit, the men shared that they attributed the group’s continuity to their love of their families, the support they received from local leadership to mobilize other men and provide them with platforms to share their messages. One such platform is a ward-level soccer tournament held for Male Champion groups, used to share the campaign’s message and to connect with other groups from throughout the ward and their wider communities.

The Amadoda Emadodeni group in Nkayi and Amalima Loko’s Indoda Emadodeni concept have been well-received by their community. The eldest of the group, Bra Nene, shared that, “the society is responsive to our program, and they have been asking us to roll it out further to other villages.”

The group also hopes to address more cross-cutting gender norms in the future, including challenging the norms that contribute to gender-based violence. As an approach designed around the premise that behavior change is often driven by peer influence, this evolution is exactly the type of progress envisioned for the campaign from its inception.

“I understand that a man among men fends for his family and ensures that they are well taken care of in terms of food, shelter and clothing,” Ndosi said. “I hope my children will follow the footsteps of Indoda Emadodeni that we are setting.”

Amalima Loko is a five-year resilience and food security program funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance that seeks to address community-identified issues underpinning food insecurity in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. To date, the activity has worked with 200 Male Champions groups and reached over 2,000 men.