Malawi: Changing Male Norms in Malawi (March 2009)

Polygamy and early marriage are common practices in Malawi's Mangdanja tribe. However, Lyson Mandere, a Mangdanja Village Headman, no longer condones these types of behavior amongst tribe members.

His views on these once socially accepted norms changed after he and his wife visited the Bambo Wachitsanzo "Great Guy" Open Day community activity in Chikwawa District.

"I felt guilty after the Bambo Wa Chitsanzo sensitization about the way I was treating my wife, and the only compensation to her I found was to immediately change which I did and my wife and people acknowledged," he said.

Bambo Wachitsanzo, an initiative supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), works to affect behavior change in Malawi.

The Open Day attended by Mandere focused primarily on knowing one's status, practicing safer sex by using condoms, and reducing the number of sexual partners.

The Bambo Wachitsanzo Hope Kit was developed for this project to encourage community-wide behavior change similar to that evident in Mandere. The kits distributed at the community event promote discussion of HIV prevention and encourage individuals to participate in small, do-able actions to help protect themselves and their loved ones in the fight against HIV.

Admitting that he once believed "women need to be told what to do as demanded by our culture through the initiation ceremonies of girls and they should not be given any chance to share their views even those concerning family sex," Mandere now values women and their roles in society and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The first sign of change in his behavior became clear when Mandere and his wife went for voluntary HIV counseling and testing following their attendance at the Bambo Wa Chitsanzo Open Day. After both testing HIV-negative, Mandere vowed to remain faithful to his wife and to protect his family from HIV.

His community noticed the change in Mandere's behavior too. So much so that in March 2008, Mr. Mandere was awarded the "Bambo Wa Chitsanzo Certificate," an award given to "Great Guys" in the community who have demonstrated exemplary attributes.

Today, many people in Mandere's community follow his example and his actions.

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