Sierra Leone: The Husband School | Sierra Leone

Pidia Joseph Allieu has made it his life’s work to eradicate sexual violence in Sierra Leone.

Although the precise figures are impossible to confirm, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 women were the victims of gender-related violence during the country’s devastating 1991-2002 civil war – and this legacy of abuse has endured.

In February 2019, the president of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, declared rape a national emergency.

I am not doing my job for money. It’s a passion. Because I know it’s life-saving.

Pidia Joseph Allieu, Husband School teacher

As a teacher at the Husband School, Pidia attempts to make fundamental changes in the arena where some of the worst crimes are committed – marriage.

He leads classes for men in a rural area in eastern Sierra Leone, inviting them to share their views on the treatment of women and helping them to build a better understanding of the consequences of their attitudes and actions.

For many of these men – some past retirement age – this is the first time they have been in a formal classroom situation, but once a week for six months they take a break from their work and voluntarily participate in the training sessions. The idea is to open their minds to the bigger picture and encourage them to embark on a different, more mutually respectful relationship with their wives.

It is also not unusual for Pidia to be the first point of contact when a family reaches crisis point and acts of violence are committed.

“People trust me because my family have always lived in this neighbourhood; it’s why they call me first rather than the police,” he says.

But, as with many NGO projects in Sierra Leone, funding for the Husband School is inconsistent and Pidia goes months on end without payment. Nevertheless, Pidia is determined to continue his work, knowing that many families in the community rely on his support.

“I am not doing my job for money,” says Pidia. “It’s a passion. Because I know it’s life-saving.”

Pidia introduces villagers to the Husband School [Sam Liebmann/Al Jazeera]


By Sam Liebmann

Men in the villages of Sierra Leone discussing gender issues seemed an intriguing prospect ever since I first covered the story a few years ago.

Watching the Husband School classes play out, I couldn’t help but admire the openness with which these grown men – some of them past retirement age – were willing to learn and discuss sensitive issues around sex, marriage, domestic violence, and other key moral and practical questions related to gender.

Ultimately, that men are discussing gender issues does not mean women are safe, nor equal. But I think the film does show that there is clearly engagement with the issues, and such engagement is vital for improving the lives of women around the world.

Sam Lieberman, filmmaker

Spending time with them, I realised how much I – and people in my own society – could learn from the spirit of openness that I saw during the classes; the willingness to discuss ideas in order to reach conclusions, as opposed to keeping quiet in case something politically incorrect is said.

I also realised that the men’s sometimes quite abhorrent views and behaviour were often not due to wilful ignorance. They’d lived through a war that basically shut the country down for decades, and many of the atrocities took place in rural areas like the one where Pidia grew up and where the Husband School classes are run.

Many families there live in relative poverty, even by Sierra Leone’s standards. Living far from the cities – the main political centres of power – leaves them isolated and effectively abandoned by the state. So the Husband School provides an opportunity for these men to learn about new ideas.

It is not that I think we should let men off the hook. Many women are experiencing some form of abuse by men who dominate society – and that’s why this “perpetrators” programme exists.

Like many other men and women in Sierra Leone’s civil society movement, Pidia is trying his hardest to make a positive change to their nation – working mostly for free and with little or no financial backing. Many of these inspiring people doing potentially life-saving work go unnoticed, yet they carry on despite many challenges.

Ultimately, that men are discussing gender issues does not mean women are safe or equal. But I think the film does show that there is clearly engagement with the issues, and such engagement is vital for improving the lives of women around the world.

Mariama discusses her relationship issues with Pidia [Sam Liebmann/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera


more recommended stories

  • New Ukrainian President Zelensky calls early parliamentary polls | Ukraine News

    Ukraine‘s new President Volodymyr Zelensky called.

  • Water supplies restored to besieged Libyan capital Tripoli | Libya News

    Water supplies to the 2.5 million.

  • Trump loses lawsuit challenging subpoena for financial records | Trump News

    A US judge on Monday ruled.

  • North African filmmakers pushing boundaries at Cannes 2019 | France News

    This year’s Cannes Film Festival is.

  • US says warship sails in South China Sea amid trade tensions | News

    The United States military has said.

  • Saudi Arabia ‘seeks to avert war, ready to respond with force’ | News

    Saudi Arabia wants to avert war.

  • Eurovision vs Globalvision: An artistic response | Palestine News

    Bethlehem and London – Palestinian, Israeli.

  • Presidential hopeful Joe Biden calls for unity in inaugural rally | Elections 2018 News

    Former Vice President Joe Biden has.

  • US warns airliners flying over Gulf of ‘misidentification’ | Iran News

    US diplomats warned commercial airliners flying.

  • Australian election: Voting under way in key contest | Australia News

    Melbourne, Australia – Australians are heading.

  • An Iranian building bridges in wall-obsessed America | US & Canada

    A towering artist of his generation,.

  • Taiwan parliament to vote on same-sex marriage legislation | Taiwan News

    Amid deep divisions, Taiwan‘s parliament has.

  • The Philippines’ Duterte: In pursuit of an imperial presidency | Asia

    Although President Rodrigo Duterte‘s name was.

  • Venezuela government, opposition in Norway for crucial talks | News

    Envoys from the Venezuelan government and.

  • Alibaba earnings hint at China’s ability to weather trade war | China News

    China‘s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group reported.

  • Iran halts some commitments under 2015 nuclear deal | News

    Iran has officially stopped some commitments.

  • PNG assesses damage from magnitude 7.5 earthquake | Papua New Guinea News

    Authorities in Papua New Guinea have dispatched.

  • Palestinian campaigners call for mass boycott of Airbnb on May 15 | News

    A Palestinian campaign has called on.

  • Spyware discovered targeting phones through WhatsApp calls | News

    Spyware crafted by an “advanced cyber.

  • Senior Palestinian official says she was refused US visa | USA News

    A senior Palestinian official has said she.

  • Sweden to reopen rape probe against WikiLeaks founder Assange | News

    Julian Assange is to be investigated.

  • Small lead for Australian opposition as election nears: poll | Australia News

    Australia‘s opposition Labor Party retains a.

  • Gunmen attack hotel in Pakistan’s Gwadar, kill five people | News

    Islamabad, Pakistan – Gunmen have stormed a.

  • India election 2019: Sixth round of voting under way for 59 seats | India elections 2019 News

    Voters in Delhi and elsewhere in.

  • Houthi rebels begin withdrawal from key ports in Yemen | Yemen News

    Yemen’s Houthi rebels have begun a.

  • Golf ball-sized hailstones and torrential rains hit southern US | News

    Hailstones the size of golf balls.

  • UN: Yemen’s Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah port | News

    Yemen’s Houthi group has unilaterally agreed to.

  • Far-right protesters target Roma family in Rome | Far Right News

    Rome, Italy – Hundreds of Italian.

  • US: Manning freed but ordered to appear before new grand jury | USA News

    Chelsea Manning, an ex-US military intelligence analyst.

  • US seizes North Korean coal vessel accused of violating sanctions | USA News

    In an unusual civil forfeiture action,.

  • Trump says China ‘broke’ trade deal, threatens new tariffs | China News

    President Donald Trump has accused China of.

  • Government forces capture village in rebel-held northwest Syria | News

    Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar.