Men urged to talk openly about health issues

Sakhiwo Tunzi from the University of Cape Town engages with resident Thobile Mbalo about the main purpose of the Mens Indaba.

Many men do not like to visit clinics and some are too ashamed to talk openly about their health issues. This emerged when Doctors Without Borders teamed up with City Great Commission Ministers Network, the City of Cape Town, Western Cape government, Mosaic, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Ekhaya Vac and Anova to educate men about issues of gender-based violence as well as the relationship between religion and health.

Perhaps emphasising this reluctance was the fact that the Men’s iindaba, held at Site C blue hall on Saturday May 19, was so poorly attended.

The event was aimed at encouraging men to come forward and engage about health matters affecting them. But most importantly, the event strived to denounce gender-based violence and urged men to be at the forefront of combating abuse.

Head of community health workers at Doctors Without Border, Simo Sithandathu, said they felt it was important to have such an event which sought to provide a platform for men to talk openly about health issues affecting them.

Mr Sithandathu said they wanted to inform men about the dangers of committing gender-based abuse and its consequences.

He said they were aware that not all men were perpetrators of gender-based violence and that sometimes men themselves were victims of such abuse. He noted, however, that many were still too afraid of reporting gender abuse because it was still seen as a disgrace. “We want men not to feel ashamed to report abuse. We want men to take care of their health.

“We want churches as well to preach about domestic abuse. It is wrong to abuse women and children. We need to teach young boys that violence and abuse are wrong,” he said.

He said it was also a major challenge for many men to visit clinics. Some men, he said, refused to take their medication while others feared that if they were seen at clinics and hospitals, they would be ridiculed. Mr Sithandathu said they, therefore, felt that it was crucial that they create such a platform so that as men they could advise and support teach other. Mr Sithandathu said they wanted to encourage men who took advice from churches to depend on prayer rather than medication, to take proper care of their health. “You find out that in some churches people are told not to take medication and that ‘we will pray for you’. I’m glad that pastors I have been working with understand the situation we are dealing with,” he said. Innocent Kula of the Great Commission Ministers Network, an organisation of pastors in Khayelitsha, said it was important for people to live healthy lifestyles and that churches should play an active role in the development of society.

Sabelo Gwiba, who attended the event, said he had learnt about health issues and felt that men needed to open up more. He agreed that men did not talk to each other about such matters.

Provincial chairperson of the TAC, Vuyani Macotha, said he hoped that those who attended the event would share the message.