Before the War, I Was a Man’: Men and Masculinities in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


Lwambo, Desiree. 2013. “‘Before the War, I Was a Man’: Men and Masculinities in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” Gender & Development 21 (1): 47-66. doi:10.1080/13552074.2013.769771.

Author: Desiree Lwambo


Humanitarian interventions that confuse 'gender issues' with 'women's issues' ignore the complex nature of gender and its potential as a tool for social change. This article reflects on this issue, in the context of an analysis of the relationship between sexual and gender-based violence and hegemonic masculinities in the conflict zone of North Kivu province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It draws on a research study focusing on the discrepancies between dominant ideals of masculinity and the actual realities of men's lives. As men try to enact masculine ideals of breadwinner and family head, the current political and economic context puts them under increasing pressure. Respondents drew a direct connection between the resulting sense of failure and unhealthy outlets for asserting masculinity, lack of productivity, and violence. They were critical of the fact that most programmes dealing with sexual and gender-based violence focus exclusively on supporting women. I argue here that such interventions do not recognise the interdependent and interactive nature of gender. Their antagonising effect is evidenced by the high level of men's resistance to programmes and campaigns promoting gender equality. The article further highlights the role of 'hegemonic masculinity' in creating a general climate of violence and conflict, pointing up the need for holistic approaches that empower men to make non-violent life choices.

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Sexual Violence, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2013

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at