The Beast Still lurks

Posted: 26 April 2017 in Cultural, Haiti, Understanding Others
Tags: ,
Mens Conference (14).JPG

The men listen carefully, if sometimes noisily

In Haiti they say “Age and marriage tame the beast”.    But by the time I stood to speak to over 470 Haitian men on this, I knew that was only partially the case.  The Beast still lurked.  Perhaps it still lurks in all of us.

Getting Asked
British Aid is supporting the Hospital’s women’s reproductive health programme in the community.  As part of that, the Hospital organised a Men’s Conference – how men can support their wives and partners.  It covered antenatal care, supporting your wife/partner in the early months after birth, birth control, relationships.

The organisers (Grace Greene and Yousvel Loremus) asked if I would join the three doctors and senior Haitian pastor.  Could I speak as an English lay pastor. I asked “that’s very kind of you, but why something religious?  And why me?”  Grace replied “In Haiti – everything is religious.  And you probably say something similar to the Haitian pastor, but you will say it differently.”

But was I such a great dad, great husband, to my own family back then?  To be honest, not that great.  So I conferred with my wife and my daughter and began to think and pray.  To think about what to say to guys to help them help their wives and daughters.

WMens Conference (10b).jpghat to Say?
To start with – Ask. Ask. Ask.  Ask Sibille. Ask Grace. Ask Yousvel. Ask Joe. Ask Stephen. Ask any Haitian who will be willing to give me insights. Relations between men and women look different here than in UK.  Views began to come together:

“There is violence against women here.  It is quite common.  But there are women who can be violent against their men too.  Common is a man who has several relationships on the go.  The wife is madame.  Then there are several other women.  Women will have multiple relationships too.  There is a lot of fluidity over children in these cases.  Men will not own to the irregular children.  And when a man takes up with a new woman, he will not want to take responsibility for another man’s children.  The children get farmed out to grandparents or aunts.  There is definitely no long term thinking for relationship, but that is true for everything in Haiti, no long term thinking.  They will not put money aside say for school fees, even though these are known in advance, because of the needs of the moment.”

There is a lot of male dominance, even amongst the educated.  Husbands expect to have the passwords to their wives mobiles (“just in case she is cheating on me”) – but do not reciprocate. And there is lot of male hostility towards birth control. More than I saw in Uganda.

Old School Patriarchy?
But what I have seen and heard about is not a traditional patriarchy.  Men can come and go, and there are strong female role models to be found.  Indeed, the Hospital doctors may be all male, but in almost all the other key roles, there are female leads.

This is not like what I saw in Uganda, where there has been greater cultural continuity from pre-colonial tribal patterns, through the British era, into the 21stC.  In Haiti, if there ever was established patriarchy, it has been lost in the nation’s turbulent history. So while matrimony, monogamy and lifelong mutual faithfulness are recognised standards, real relationships are much more fluid and abrasive.  The beast still lurks.

So, in the end – what did I say?  See attached document: Men and women talk


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s