On the 31st of July 2020, the Africa Unite Human Rights teams of Durban and Cape Town hosted an intergenerational, intercultural “Men2Men” webinar/ dialogue session, discussing the most pertinent issues facing South African men, where we missed our mark and how we can attempt to remedy these issues.
The session had Peer Educators participate from Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape as well as a few external participants. We also had the privilege to have speakers, Mr Claif Katsha, a religious and community leader in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, Mr Nkosikhona General Mpungose; a community leader and active citizen from Durban, and Mr Keagan Gertse; a socio-political activist and Africa Unite Peer educator from Wellington in the Western Cape, the dialogue was attended by 15 young and old men coming from different provinces in South Africa.
The purpose of the webinar was to create a platform where men could openly discuss issues with one another such as Gender-Based Violence, unemployment, mental health and morality.
Our speakers Spoke on challenges faced by young men who grew up in places such as Hanover Park on the Cape Flats as many of them fall prey to gangsterism, drugs & alcoholism was very demoralizing and led to him nearly leaving school at a young age. It was also added that because of growing up in such places and dropping out of school leads to them lacking morals and discipline which something you get if you grew up from a structure at home, without a strong family structure and strong male guidance our communities will continue to fall prey to societal ills and just perpetuate this vicious cycle. They stated that as men we have not just failed to step up in society but rather also failed ourselves, we chose comfort & pleasure over security and growth, and, if we ever seek to break this cycle of violence and poverty, we need to take responsibility for these problems and start mentoring the younger generation to avoid these cycles. We need to look within to solve the problem, we need to get involved at local schools, mentoring and cultivating young men to be functional and robust members of society.
They further, continued on a discussing “Moral regeneration in society”. Stating morality is a key way to restore wholesome leadership in South Africa as we currently live in a “broken society, led by broken men” and that this lays at the centre of many societal ills, we emulate what we see around us. African families, tend to raise genders differently, we raise males to be entitled, as they are given everything and elevated in the family, this then translates to the entitlement we see in society, we fail to teach them how to handle rejection and this often translates violently. We, in turn, raise female children to be more docile and submissive, this should change, and we should change. We should not just throw around the Zulu term “Indoda” (Man, colloquially used to address a leader or elder) loosely, young men especially should earn this type of title and should only be bestowed if one is deserving of such a title through his actions and character.
Moreover; religious leaders should be at the forefront of moral regeneration just as they were at the forefront of the struggle for freedom during the 20th century, regardless of the religious affiliation of those around them. The vital question that we need to ask ourselves as we continued is; what do we define as a man? Is it a heterosexual male, can homosexual and bisexual males also be included in this definition? One of our speakers mentioned that he strongly feels that it is accepted on a surface level in society but in reality, non-heterosexual males are often excluded from the definition of a man. He remarks that the structures that we use to define our lives or provide guidance (culture & religion) albeit important are proving too rigid for the current flow of society and definitions and structures should be relooked and reformed to be more inclusive and more flexible. They concluded by stating that we need to review these structures, so we can start understanding one another that we can start creating more of an understanding with the older generation, thus we can start spotting the root causes of these societal ills and break the cycle of violence, bigotry and misunderstanding.
As the dialogue continued the participants also contributed by to what had already been shared;
The first contribution was a question on why it was necessary to fight issues like GBV & unemployment during a global pandemic? In these crying times, we have women in our immediate spheres of influence that look to us for protection and guidance and we shouldn’t allow a pandemic to hold us back for fighting for what is right and Just.
Also, it was noted that we should not forget the role mental health plays in all of this and that we should start cultivating a spirit of dialogue with young men to express their emotions instead of allowing them to bottle it up which in turn leads to violent behavior, however, young women should also be encouraged to speak up if things are bothering them and not to shy away from this, civil society should lobby that more psychologists and social workers be employed in schools to fight this scourge of mental health issues.
One of the participants believes that an underrated tool in combatting these issues is interfaith, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue and mobilization. He feels that creating better understanding and committing to mobilization across the board will be a key tool in the war to be waged against these societal ills, he also believes that this pandemic has proven that the older guard or leadership should start handing over the baton of leadership.
Furthermore, it was stated that this concept of men civilly speaking to men excites and it very interesting. In conclusion, it was noted that it would be great to have engagements as today’s’ one continuing to grow because we need to get a full rounded perspective of the issues that hinder our progress as a State and as a people.