Inclusive solution-directed approaches to fight gender-based violance in South Africa

by Kari Cousins (GEI Program Manager, South Africa)
Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it!” That was the initial comment which was given by Lulu Xingwana, South Africa’s former Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities after the infamous shooting incident of Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013. Regardless of what was considered as an inappropriate remark for which Ms. Xingwana later apologized, the statement clearly indicated that gender-based violence is still a pressing issue in South Africa – as it is the case in many other countries as well.

One might argue that using terms such as “gender-based violence” undermines the violence towards women and creates a misleading equivalence in the proportion of men and women experiencing domestic violence. However, it is dangerous to neglect and eliminate a gender group from the equation which might increase the violence issue instead of resolving it. For such reasons, some local organizations in South Africa, such as the Sonke Gender Justice Network, decided to work with men, women, youth and children in the region to achieve gender equality and prevent gender-based violence.

Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

Sonke believes that men should be part of the solution to reduce violence towards women and that they can be mobilized to play an important role in achieving gender equality. For that, Sonke uses various social change and human rights-based strategies to promote healthy, equitable societies, ranging from individual skill building and community education, to organizational development, community mobilization and policy advocacy. Their activities reach over twenty thousand men each year in South Africa with workshops that encourage men to reflect on certain behaviors which affect them and the women in their lives, and to take action in their homes and communities to end the violence in order to create a more just and equitable environment.

At GEI, we encourage such inclusive solution-directed approaches and applaud organizations like Sonke that aim to integrate those priorities into laws, policies and national plans. If you would like to learn more about Sonke’s work, please visit their website here. And in case you are interested to visit South Africa and see the impact first-hand, let us know as we are currently in the process of designing a “Women & Leadership in South Africa” program for 2015, again led by our Africa gender expert Prof. Shirley Randell.