A group of township men have called for men from all walks of life to start talking about abuse and taking a stand against it.
Gathered at the Solomon Mahlangu hall in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, on Saturday, the men agreed that the first step was for men to acknowledge that it was largely men who were the perpetrators of abuse, and that they should be the ones to come up with solutions.
One of these, they suggested, was including gender-based violence in the school curriculum.
The gathering was organised by Emthonjeni Counselling and Training, a non-governmental organisation that advocates for women’s rights and the empowerment of young girls.
Thabiso Tshwagong, who was among the men who attended, said there were three battles that men faced – emotional, financial and physical – and edstressed that men need to stop talking and start acting against abuse.
“We are at war. Each GBV case is caused by a man. As men we need to mobilise. We need to watch football together and after the game talk about these issues and how we can help each other,” he told the gathering.
While acknowledging that some men kill or act violently because of the pain they were carrying, he acknowledged that they seek therapy instead.
Focusing on the financial battles men face, he said this could be most painful because unemployment prevented men from being able to take care of their families.
“There is mass unemployment and that is a cause for concern to many of us. Men want to take care of their families but when they cannot, they get too much stress. We as men need to look at how we can usher love to our loved ones.
“But the truth is we are failing as men. We need to stop focusing on nonsense and defend our women,” he said to applause from the crowd.
Mr Tshwagong also called on lawyers to stop representing perpetrators of gender-based violence.
“Why would they defend murders and abusers? We should take that stand and say to them, you are not representing a criminal,” he said.
Yanga Mjingwana from the Men’s Sector organisation, said if men were still making excuses for their violent behaviour, there would never be any peace and that instead of justifying their deeds they should work with organisations to fight GBV.
“It is about time that we take a stand and stop this nonsense. If we still have excuses, then there is a big problem. We need to rise and as families we need to do (away) with those of us who are perpetrators of violence,” he said.
Director and founder of Emthonjeni, Nomfundo Eland, said she was delighted that men had used the platform to voice their opinions and views about GBV.
She said her organisation had organised the event because it was not enough to only focus on empowering young girls and women.
“Everywhere we went there were questions: what about the boys?
“We found that we are empowering girls that go out with unempowered boys who at some point use physical force to do things. We felt young men need to know the rights of women too,” she told Vukani.
Ms Eland said she was happy to hear men admitting their deeds and agreeing to form men-only groups where they will be able to discuss matters affecting them.
“I was happy to hear that they will now meet on a monthly basis. They agreed to activate other areas like Nyanga, Mfuleni, Philippi where cases of gender-based violence are alarming.
“But again, agreeing among themselves that they need a space as men only so they can talk their language, was some achievement from our side,” said Ms Eland.