FREE­ING ALL WOMEN AND CHIL­DREN

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - SELLO MOKOENA

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

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