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Speaker Proposes Therapy for Trauma to Combat Violence Against Women

Kayleigh Rhatigan ’19, Clarke Forum Columnist

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Disproportionate numbers of men in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) region experience trauma from participating in armed conflicts in the DRC and neighboring nations such as Burundi and Rwanda. These traumatized men are more likely to commit physical, emotional, sexual and economic violence against women, claimed speaker Aloys Mahwa, project director at the Living Peace Institute (LPI) of the organization Promundo, at his lecture “Masculine Identity and Sexual Gender Based Violence: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo”

Mahwa, who lives and works in the DRC, outlined LPI’s work with traumatized men in the DRC. To help these men, LPI runs group therapy sessions in which they help men to cope with their trauma and reframe their concept of masculinity to include values such as non-violence and helping their wives with housework and child-rearing. Mahwa discussed that many other organizations provide support to the victims of sexual and physical violence and that LPI seeks to address the root cause of this violence.

“His findings about notions of manhood were a powerful starting ground for LPI’s interventions” said Samuel Weisman ’18, who attended the talk.

Jean-Pierre Karegeye, visiting international scholar in philosophy, described Mahwa’s work as consisting “of analyzing root causes of gender violence in focusing on the role (to be) played by men.” Karegeye added that the Dickinson “community has to be aware of gender equality approaches that include the role of transformative masculinities.”

At the end of his lecture, Mahwa showed a short documentary about a participant in LPI group therapy who worked through some of his war-related trauma and began to participate more actively in his family. “Mahwa shared how LPI facilitates group sessions to help men overcome personal trauma and unhealthy concepts of masculinity,” said Weisman. “[Mahwa] engaged with the systemic impacts of identity and questioned types of violence that ripple through an area in conflict.” Weisman also added that Mahwa’s “findings about notions of manhood were a powerful starting ground for LPI’s interventions.”

Karegeye added that “effective gender equality passes through the deconstruction of our own structures of injustice.” Karegeye continued on this point, saying that “in a context of male vs. female, equality is reduced to woman’s rights and we forget masculine social, cultural, and economical structures that create injustice. Mahwa’s organizations…have this premise: if man is part of the problem, he should also be part of the solution.”

“I was also moved by the way in his lecture he could combine research and community voices,” said Karegeye. “Mahwa does not just do things for people but he works with communities to rethink the idea of manhood in Africa. … The interaction between Mahwa and audience [showed] how what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo concerns any human being.”

Weisman added that “The [question and answer] session expanded Mahwa’s discussion to cover some of the challenges LPI faces in the communities where it works.”

Mahwa coordinates Living Peace Implementation Activities in North and South Kivu, runs LPI stakeholders working sessions and documents and evaluates its best practices. He previously worked with the USAID Rwanda Health Financing Initiatives to create resource mobilization strategies, community initiatives and approaches for health financing, situational analysis, policies and developing strategic plans. Mahwa received two master’s degrees in project management and anthropology and managerial economy from the Catholic University of Central Africa and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Jesuit Faculties of Paris.

Mahwa spoke on Thursday, April 19 at 12 p.m.  Approximately 22 students and faculty attended the lecture which was sponsored by the Clarke Forum.

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Speaker Proposes Therapy for Trauma to Combat Violence Against Women