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This US 'Care School' Teaches Men Lessons In Caregiving, House Chores

A school in Columbia, United States, is working towards shattering norms around gender roles by teaching men 101 lessons in caregiving and household responsibilities and chores.

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Rudrani Gupta
New Update
Image Credit: Ben de la Cruz/NPR

Image Credit: Ben de la Cruz/NPR

A school in Columbia, United States, is working towards shattering norms around gender roles by teaching men 101 lessons in caregiving and household responsibilities and chores. The school teaches men how to do basic chores and caregiving. Under the tutelage of 30-year-old Felipe Contreras, men learn how to change dirty diapers, apply rash ointments, learn to hold a baby, wash dishes, iron clothes, and more.

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Is The Care School Making Strides In Shattering Gender Roles?

Bogotá's Care School for Men is an innovative program with the mission to change the gender norms that confine women to boundaries of home and housework while men are free to go out and earn.

The Care School conducts six to eight sessions and workshops in Universities, workplaces and more institutions, in which men are taught to be good partners and fathers. The latest class was held at Sanitas University where groups of young students joined the session and practiced and learnt various activities of caregiving. Since many students were unaware of these practices, they fumbled and made mistakes. Some made fun of each other while others were proud of how well they completed their task. 

According to a detailed report by NPR, Ferley Sáenz, a 40-year-old coordinator of Bogotá's transportation system, was disappointed when his son, Martin, started distancing from him. He would cry if his mother, a full-time caregiver, was not around. The distance grew to the extent that Martin didn't eat with Sáenz, play with him or go to the daycare school if his wife was not present. "I felt like a stranger in my own home," Sáenz told NPR. Luis Rodríguez, a 17-year-old medical students, lives with his mother and younger sister. He never realised the amount of world load that his mother has while taking care of the house and the children. This is the realisation that men in our society need to understand the importance of caregiving and sharing housework. Helping men learn that, Bogotá's Care School for Men has landed with dolls, diapers and ponytails to teach caregiving to men. 

 

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In a video shared on social media, some students are seen changing diapers, and cleaning the bottom parts of the dolls while others are making ponytails of the mannequins. The sessions also conduct conversations on defying gender norms and traditional concepts of masculinity.

The unusual part of the program was that along with students, men who are already dads too joined the sessions. Ferley Sáenz is one of them. 

In a session, along with 21 colleagues, Ferley Sáenz joined for stress management. However, little did he know, the session was going to change the root of his stress. After learning the caregiving activities, he started prioritising being a father. He helped Martin with his homework and visited his school for a parent-teacher meeting. He also did child care and kept himself free during weekends to give some rest to his wife. 

"Dedicating quality time to [my children], participating in their development and learning process, has made us closer. My eldest son tells me about his day at school, which he didn't do before," said Sáenz. "It's an incredible feeling," Sáenz said. 

How did it start?

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The Care School began after COVID-19 when women fell sick due to the burden of housework and many lost their lives. At that time, distressed men connected with the city-ren men's hotline and sought help in caring for their children. 

"They called with the pain of losing their partners but also with frustration at being unable to take care of their children," said Juan David Cortés, the Care School for Men's strategy leader.

To address this gap of lack of caregiving between fathers and children, the Care School started in 2021. Initially, the enrollment was low. However, in 2022, it began to rise as 73,00 men attended its in-person learning workshops. 50,000 men completed the online version of the learning and 160,000 men have seen the city's video series of caregiving. 

Breaking gender norms

The school is not just about teaching caregiving to men. "Something fundamental that we talk about in the program is that there are diverse ways of being men, without having to fulfil expectations," says Cortés. He also says that another advantage is that class through its "educational and fun" activities engage men in inviting and challenging activities. This keeps the idea of ridiculing men who indulge in caregiving at the bay. 

"[We're] framing this as an opportunity to not only reduce gender gaps but also to improve relationships with our partners, with our families," Cortés said. "That women are naturally better suited to housework and caregiving, while men are better suited to paid work outside the home," the Care School doesn't believe in this gender norm and aims to change it.

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Why this program and its idea is impactful

The program has impacted a lot of men in the city. It is indeed refreshing to see men learning caregiving. This shows that men are not immune to changes. They want to spend time with their kids and have a good relationship with their partners. However, deep-rooted culture and its norms make them inhibit their desire to actively participate at home. These gender norms were created to empower and give privilege to men. 

It is time now that we dismantle these dysfunctional norms which benefit no one. Not every city and country might have a Care School, but the learning can begin from every home. So, begin with your homes, seek help from your partners and learn how to be the person you have always wanted to be. 

Views expressed are the author's own. 

 

fatherhood gender roles gender norms
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