News from South Africa

EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network 


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42en_mas ... Masculinity


News from South Africa

By Gumisai Mutume

PRETORIA, Nov 24 (IPS) -- There was a massive advertising and media campaign, and the cause was a genuine one. Yet, only about 2000 South Africans turned up for the National Men's March to pledge their commitment to fight violence against women.

Men Urged to Support Fight Against Gender Violence 
BuaNews (Pretoria) - Edwin Tshivhidzo   

November 11, 2002

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) fighting for women's rights have called on the active participation of men in the fight against gender violence.

They have called on men to spread peace in their families during the 16 Days of Activism campaign of No Violence against Women and Children, to run from 25 November to 10 December.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will officially launch the campaign on 19 November to mobilise all sectors of society to promote non-violence against women and children.

The16 Days of Activism is an international campaign, aimed at raising public awareness on human rights and gender violence.

During this time, women and human rights organisations all over the world will concentrate their efforts on raising awareness on all forms of violence against women and children.

Addressing the media in Johannesburg today, Gender Links director Colleen Lowe Morna, said it was time abusive men considered 'women as human beings and respected their rights.'

'For a long time women have suffered in the hands of their abusive partners, now its time it comes to an end,' said Ms Morna.

'Its time that all women unite and speak with one voice and say enough is enough!'

Men's Forum director Mbuyiselo Botha said not all men were bad but those that violated women's rights needed serious help.


He appealed to communities to unite and stand up against violence on women.

Tebogo Matoane from Young Women's Network said a culture of peace was needed.


Workshops on how domestic violence can be curbed will be conducted throughout the country during this time. The campaign will coincide with a commemoration of the Mirabal sisters who were brutally murdered by the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. Other events to be commemorated will include the Montreal Massacre, when a man gunned down 14 women engineering students he accused of being feminists. Activities planned for the period range from candlelight vigils for victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence, and public education campaigns on violence against women and children. South Africa has been promoting the 16 Days of Activism campaign of No Violence against Women and Children for the past four years.

Since 1998, through its “Men As Partners” (MAP) Program, EngenderHealth and the Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa (PPASA) have been working with men in communities, schools, and workplace settings to explore society’s messages regarding the roles of men and women, relationships between the sexes, power imbalances based on gender, and gender-based violence. This workshop will expose participants to highly successful MAP strategies, including the use of interactive and reflective activities to help men understand and address negative gender and social norms that lead to violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The programme has been designed with the overall objective of increasing men's participation and joint responsibility in all areas of sexual and reproductive health and sensitising men to gender issues as an essential element to ensure gender equality. Ultimately, the programme will seek to affect attitudinal and behavioural changes in men so that they practice safer sex and participate in reproductive health decision making. The programme will target youth through PPASA's Adolescent Reproductive Health Services and a programme that will target older men will be piloted in four of PPASA's provincial offices; Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

The main objectives of the Men as Partners programme include:

  • increasing men's support of the reproductive health choices of their partner

  • improving communication between partners around issues of sexual and reproductive health

  • increasing men's knowledge of reproductive health including prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS

  • strengthening IEC materials in an effort to raise gender sensitivity by addressing gender roles and their effect in shaping relations between partners

  • increasing men's access to reproductive health information and services and therefore increasing contraceptive use as well as the number of men reporting to clinics for STD treatment

  • decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and STDs

  • improving skills of health professionals by training them in men's reproductive health in an effort to provide male-friendly services

  • decreasing gender violence in all its forms.

Sex and football
Innovative community education in South Africa

Many development programs effectively empower primarily the men in a community. However, Community Aid Abroad believes that real social change often comes only when women are empowered to change their community for the better. That's why all of our development activities are assessed according to gender; according to what they are doing for women's lives. Sometimes this is as concrete as setting up women's credit schemes, while other programs actually tackle relationships between men and women. One such program is the Men in Soccer program in South Africa, which aims to empower women by changing men's attitudes and behaviour around safer sex and HIV. 

The Men in Soccer program is working with forty soccer teams in four districts around Durban, South Africa. The focus on soccer clubs makes sense: soccer is the most popular sport for South Africans. Not only do good players have high status, soccer clubs are important community meeting points throughout the country. The Men in Soccer program aims to raise AIDS awareness through peer education. Two volunteers from each team will be trained about AIDS, safe sex and the management of sexually transmitted infections. They then pass this information on to the rest of the team informally in normal social settings, and teams will develop public awareness messages and activities for their supporters. The impact of the program will be evaluated after three years, including by talking with partners of the soccer players to see if there has been behavioural change. The Men in Soccer program is a very ambitious project, aimed directly at influencing men's behaviour. By dealing with AIDS and gender issues through working with men, we hope that women's power to negotiate safe sex can be increased.

Robert Morrel


There is quite a lot happening in South Africa in terms of gender - in terms of profeminist men (by the way, this is a term that does not sit comfortably with all men working in gender related areas - against domestic abuse, in the field of AIDS, in areas of reconciliation - there is some antipathy towards 'feminism' (understood as a 'western' import and hence as imperialist)). I edited a special issue of the feminist journal, AGENDA last year Its theme was 'The new men?' and it included a number of articles on initiatives in South Africa which make masculinity a central part of gender work. It was issue #37. 

I hope this is of some use - it is the best summary of 'profeminist' action in South Africa.

I forgot to mention that IASOM news (The journal of the International Association for the Study of Men) is devoting its next issue to Men and Violence. Michael Kaufman is editing it and its due out at the Women's World Conference in Tromso in June. I have a short article on South Africa in that issue.


With best wishes



Men against Gender Based Violence


The Men against Gender Based Violence Programme conducted a review of existing men groups in Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Namibia. FEMNET documented and hopes to share the experiences with other male groups in the continent to encourage formation of more men groups and in the process strengthen the Africa Network of Men for Gender Equality. FEMNET will also share the experience with national, regional and global networks, including the INSTRAW and UNIFEM networks. FEMNET launched the Men to Men Initiative in 2001, to mark the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Violence on Women. The FEMNET contribution to the campaign targeted men, and marked the beginning of a partnership to promote and increase male involvement and action to combat gender based violence at the Africa regional level.

FEMNET’s involvement in the Men to Men Project started with a men to men consultation held in December 2001. The consultation brought together men from Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa, representing community organisations, human rights and legal groups, religious organisations, universities and the police. The Consultation culminated in the development of a plan of action, which specified some follow-up action at the regional and national levels. Participants committed themselves to take action and requested FEMNET to host the African Network of Men Against Gender Based Violence. On the basis of this recommendation and the proposed follow-up actions, FEMNET developed the Men to Men Project. The project is being implemented with partners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. 


The White Ribbon Campaigns in Africa

Promoting gender equality and equity, and reducing violence against women in Brazil through the involvement of men and boys.

There are or have been White Ribbon Campaigns in at least 47 countries, including Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda 



Men join campaign to end violence against women

By Stephanie Urdang , Johannesburg



When an older man raised his hand to speak on the third day of a gender workshop in Hoedspruit, a rural community in northern South Africa, Bafana Khumalo’s heart sank. As the facilitator of the workshop, which specifically targeted men, he had already touched on what makes men real men and how the unequal power between men and women was helping to fuel the sky-rocketing increase in HIV and AIDS in South Africa.

Mr. Khumalo worried that the participant would give a lecture about how thinking that men and women are equal goes against African culture or how giving women power is dividing families. Older men are deeply respected in rural communities and he knew this man could spoil the workshop.

“Yesterday, after I got home”, the man began, “I called my sons. I called my wife. And I explained what we are doing in this workshop”. He told his children that things had to change in their home. No longer could their mother come back tired from a day of work and be expected to cook, clean, wash the dishes and clear up all on her own. It was simply unfair.

From now on, he told his children, they would have to do some of the household work. “You have to start cleaning and tidying the house. You have to begin preparing dinner so when your mother comes home she can see that we have all contributed. I can’t learn to cook. I am too old. But I will wash the dishes.” For Mr. Khumalo, it was a big moment.


This participant had accepted a key idea of the workshop: that we are not born knowing what it means to be a man. We learn what manliness is from the people around us who have decided what it means. And because it is something society has decided on, it can also be changed by society. In the past, we have said that manhood is about “dominance and aggression, sexual conquest and fearlessness,” says Mr. Khumalo. These social ideas also say how men and women should behave. If we want to improve out lives today, we have to examine all the different ways in which men and women are unequal.


Making progress

“I look back at this moment,” he told Africa Renewal, “and I realise we are getting somewhere. This story is repeated again and again whenever we do our programme.” Across South Africa, such workshops are beginning to change attitudes. Research by the South African Men as Partners network shows that 71 per cent of men taking part in such workshops believe that women should have the same rights as men, compared with only 25 per cent more generally. Asked whether they thought it was normal to sometimes beat their wives, 82 per cent of workshop participants said it was not, while 38 per cent of non-participants thought wife-beating was normal.


Mr. Khumalo is co-director of Sonke Gender Justice, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) formed in 2006 to try to deal with violence against women and HIV/AIDS. He was struck, he says, by how ‘hungry’ the men in his workshops are to discuss violence against women and their role in that violence. “They express a heartfelt need to be different men and different fathers from the older generation of men”. He strongly believes that gender equality can not be achieved only through women’s empowerment alone and that men’s behaviour and attitudes are driving both the HIV epidemic and violence against women.

Numerous studies find that South Africa has the highest incidence of reported rape of any country in the world. In 2006, the South African Medical Research Council surveyed 1,370 male volunteers from 70 villages and found that close to one man in four had participated in sexual violence. More than 16 per cent had raped a woman who was not his partner or had participated in gang rape, and 8.4 per cent had been sexually violent towards an intimate partner.


When apartheid ended in 1994, achieving equality between women and men was a major goal of the new government. The protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality was enshrined in the 1996 constitution, and a Commission on Gender Equality was established. Six years later, Shelia Meintjes, one of the commission members, said, “We are realising that if we don’t bring men in as partners, we won’t win the battle”. That view guides activists’ current work with men.



Building national men against violence campaigns


The first of this work with men was done by women in women’s organizations. Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT), for instance, developed a programme to educate men about domestic violence using skits performed in township taverns and in men’s marches, one of which was attended by then President Nelson Mandela. Eventually, men’s began to form groups specifically to address men’s roles, their responsibilities, attitudes and behaviour. This ‘men’s movement’ has gradually spread.

Now groups like Fathers Speak Out, the Men as Partners network and the South African Men’s Forum are involved. Trade union federations, government departments and faith-based groups also have programmes on gender equality and HIV. They hold workshops, stage dramas, promote discussions in taverns, paint murals highlighting the issues and undertake other activities that involve the community.


Sonke Gender Justice is now trying to build a national campaign involving both men and women. Sonke’s One Man Can campaign is one example of this broader approach. It is being carried out in nine provinces in South Africa and is gradually being taken up in neighbouring countries. The campaign’s messages include suggestions about how to build trust between partners and with women in general and also that men can love passionately, respectfully and sensitively.

“We want men to be able to speak out and take a stand, not to have to watch from the sidelines and do nothing,” explains Mr. Khumalo. If a man sees a woman who being beaten or hears screams from the other side of a closed door, he needs to act responsibly. “Women are afraid of us. They are afraid to hear footsteps behind them in the night. We have to show them that we care and that we will no longer accept men’s bad behaviour towards them.”


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