In some cultures, men are socialised and pressured into behaving in ways that are aggressive and domineering, because of a belief that this is what it means to be a man. This has a significant and violent impact on the lives of the women and girls around them. But it also harms the men themselves, who can feel trapped, alone, unable to express their fears or to seek support for their trauma. They become locked into a damaging misconception that this is the only way to be a man.

Alongside working with women addressing inequality and sexual and gender-based violence, Tearfund – a Christian international development charity – is training men up to be Gender Champions. These are often local church leaders, who bravely challenge men and boys’ beliefs, behaviours and actions. It takes courage and determination to stand up against what has become the norm, but it also takes courage for men to listen, to accept what they are hearing, and to change. This was the challenge that Nyasha, from Zimbabwe, faced.

When his children asked where their mummy had gone, Nyasha didn’t have the heart to tell them. In a dispute over money, Nyasha had sent his wife away to live with her parents.

They had put aside 100,000 Zimbabwean Dollars (ZWD) (£200) from raising chickens to build a chicken run. Then, his wife’s brother became very sick and the family asked Nyasha if he could help to pay for the treatment.


I had plans for the money,” says Nyasha. I told them that we couldn’t help.” Shortly after, he returned from visiting a nearby town to find there was only 25,000 ZWD50) left. His wife had given the rest of the money to help her sick brother. Nyasha was furious.

It was not hers to give away,” he says. So I sent her back to her family.”

But his anger and hurt didn’t go away. I felt stuck. Angry. Desperate.” Nyasha felt the only way out was to take his own life. It was eating me up,” he says. I felt like it was the only way to fix the problem.”

In Nyasha’s culture, you don’t settle disputes with your wife. It’s quite normal,” he says. If your wife misbehaves, you send her back.” But how was he going to explain that to his children? What would that teach them about how a husband should treat his wife?

These suicidal thoughts kept coming into my mind,” says Nyasha. Shortly after, there was a knock at the door. It was a man from the village, asking Nyasha about his wife.

The visitor was a church Gender Champion called Banga. He had received training as part of the Anglican Relief and Development Programme supported by Tearfund’s Transforming Masculinities. This programme encourages positive, healthy behaviour in men toward women and promotes gender equality to address sexual and gender-based violence.

Tearfund has found that, in many communities where we serve, there is still a prevailing view that men and women are not equal. Of course, that is still an issue of concern in the UK too. Tearfund’s Transforming Masculinities programme focuses on behaviour change and promoting gender equality to help address this.

© Idzai Marimba/Tearfund. Nyasha, from Zimbabwe, who was left distraught when he felt unable to reconcile with his wife, until a Tearfund-trained Gender Champion supported him to seek forgiveness.

Nyasha was shocked that someone was asking about his private life. I told him there was nothing to discuss,” he says. Banga went away. The next day, there was a knock at the door again. Banga wasn’t going to let this go.

He knew what had happened to me and my wife, so I opened up.” They started to discuss how to resolve the issue, deciding it was best to invite Nyasha’s wife home and start afresh.

My heart was softened,” he says. I went to find my wife and we forgave each other. The Gender Champion is still supporting us. We pray together. He’s been a blessing to me and my family. I never thought I would listen to another man about my marriage. I have shared my story in church to encourage others.

Sending your wife away doesn’t solve anything. It creates more problems and hurts your children,” says Nyasha. I am grateful for Transforming Masculinities. Without it, who knows where I would be.”