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This short message speaks volumes about the enormous agenda of Padare: to alter deeply-rooted ideas about masculinity, sexuality and gender. Although the country recently experienced a drop in HIV prevalence rates — down from In addition to fueling the AIDS epidemic, destructive interpretations of masculinity also contribute to the epidemic of gender violence that is sweeping the country. Many boys and men in Zimbabwe learn to accept gender-based violence and sexual risk-taking as appropriate male behaviour and a means to display their manhood, Mhonda says.
These roles, and the association of masculinity with toughness, male honour, and dominance, are anchored in patriarchal attitudes, according to him. In Zimbabwe, as in many places, attitudes about gender and appropriate roles for men and women are acquired at an early age and reinforced throughout life in tacit and explicit ways.
Conversely, femininity has become associated with weakness and dependence. Especially in rural areas where there is limited access to empowering information and other resources, these notions help to keep women subordinate and disempowered.
While gender norms in Zimbabwe and other places may be rigid and limiting, they are not static. Padare, which is supported by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, reaches out to men and boys in non-threatening spaces — schools, pubs, sports clubs and churches.
It encourages male parliamentarians to generate gender-sensitive legislation. It helps prepare wills to protect the rights of widows and their children. Soccer games are organized for amateur local teams and Padare uses the matches as an opportunity to educate and change attitudes through drama, pamphlets and testimonies.