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Champions of Change

Getting "Out of the Box"

Every day, across hundreds of Tanzanian communities, men are asking questions like "What does a 'real' man look like? How does he act?" In workshops, at community events, and through a dedicated roster of individual champions, the EngenderHealth-led CHAMPION Project engages men to become partners and leaders in solving some of the country's most serious health problems: HIV, gender-based violence, maternal mortality, and unintended pregnancy.

Launched in 2008, CHAMPION addresses the underlying gender issues that lead to poor health outcomes for both men and women—like the stereotype that a "real man" has multiple sexual partners, dominates and even abuses his wife, and does not seek health care for himself. CHAMPION's slogan, "Get out of the Box," encourages individuals to think beyond these traditional stereotypes of what it means to be a man. And every day, across Tanzania, men are doing just that: standing up and showing others a different way. They are role models and champions in their communities, proving that men's attitudes and behaviors can change and that transformation is happening—and must happen—right now. Here is the story of one such champion:

As the local leader of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania, Sheikh Hamid Mrisho Khamsini hosts a regular forum where men can discuss CHAMPION ideals, like treating women fairly and recognizing their health needs. Hamid's passion for the subject infuses every part of his life. On his daily bus ride home, you will likely find Hamid passing out flyers to other passengers promoting the 12 characteristics of a CHAMPION man, such as not using violence to resolve disagreements and valuing women as equals.

Once, one of the male passengers became very disturbed by what he read and commented that no man could live like that, doing chores that women typically handle. "He asked if I did any of the things on the flyer. So I immediately invited him to my home. He came with me and saw me cook and serve him, and we had dinner together," says Hamid. "He was very resistant, but I hope to encounter him again to carry on the conversation."

An awareness of inequality came early to Hamid. Raised in a family of 12 boys and three girls, he noticed that while he and his brothers were allowed to participate in sports and go to school, his sisters were forced to stay at home. "Men were valued more when I was growing up," he recalls. Yet Hamid and his brothers refused to accept this. Once, when it appeared that their father was about to strike their mother, the boys intervened. "We stood in between and let him know we would not take any of that," Hamid recalls. Later, the boys also prevented their father from taking a second wife. Hamid has been standing up to inequality ever since. He sees the CHAMPION Project as a reminder to Muslims that the Koran mandates men to respect women. "CHAMPION is not only about mundane issues, like cooking," he says. "It's about being a man, being responsible and accountable in your household. It's about being a partner."

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