FREEING ALL WOMEN AND CHILDREN
SINCE the dawn of the democratic dispensation successive governments introduced progressive policies. Among others, these were aimed at protecting women and children against abuse.
These saw the emergence of men’s grassroots movements pressing for positive social changes which bring together young and old male role models in a bid to promote intergenerational values in order to fight the scourge of abuse and to change attitudes towards women and the way women and girls are perceived in most patriarchal societies.
Organised by the Gauteng Department of Social Development and the Men’s Forum, this year’s South African Men of the Year Awards are set to honour positive male role models of all ages who stand up against rampant incidents of abuse and for their distinctive leadership roles in various categories at a ceremony to be held on November 29. Previous winners include advocate George Bizos, Dr Richard Maponya and Dr Andrew Mlangeni.
Arguably, this initiative is one of the many spin-offs of the democratic government’s efforts, which spent the early years of its existence developing and implementing progressive policies to fight rampant cases of women and child abuse.
To me the initiative plays a crucial role in society in the sense that it is an attempt to create an inclusive structure which uses a bottom-up approach that avoids a top-down approach that only superficially engages the stakeholders.
It creates an inclusive environment that embraces stakeholders from various quarters, despite different cultural and religious backgrounds, as well as racial identity including countries of origin.
This is critical as evidence-based research shows that in cases where a top-down approach had been implemented, critical stakeholders did not develop a sense of partnership, and sustainable commitment essential for achieving groundbreaking changes.
In the words of Gauteng MEC for Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, the successful implementation of a societal plan of action to eradicate abuse hinges on:
• Strengthening of moral regeneration programmes and the establishment of moral regeneration chapters throughout the country.
• The establishment of community dialogues and round tables, the objectives of which would be to engage in a process of joint problem solving that taps into the creativity and resources of all stakeholders. The objective is to develop a common vision for the future and to engage in a search for workable solutions and the best practical approaches in dealing with the scourge.
• Conducting regular door-to-door and media campaigns and actively encouraging communities and leaders from all walks of life to protect vulnerable groups, among others.
Clearly, this calls for urgent interventions that entail a developmental approach aimed at both the perpetrator and the abused person. Without creating a set of conditions conducive to ensuring that both the victims and the perpetrators are healed, we will not successfully deal with the scourge of abuse. In an effort to clamp down on the scourge of abuse we need to take practical measures imbued with a revolutionary spirit or a new culture of activism that is rooted in communities.
As the late president Nelson Mandela said in his inauguration speech, “no one is free until every woman in this country is truly free”.
Mokoena is director of research and policy at the Gauteng Department of Social Development and writes in his personal capacity