Cultivating nonviolent and healthy community environments

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By Watson Bharu

The Peace Building Team (PBT), operating within the framework of the Kagisano programme and with the support of the Governance and Livelihoods Agenda, facilitated two significant men’s conferences in the areas of Isipingo and KwaMashu within KwaZulu-Natal.

In Isipingo Ward 90, the conference was themed “Unabusive Men, Healthy Community” and addressed the urgent and widespread problem of gender-based violence (GBV), which has been causing divisions within societies. The conference provided a crucial platform for men, both young and seasoned, to gather and discuss strategies that safeguard women and children amidst pressing societal issues such lack of employment that contribute to the tension and conflict in society.

The aim was to shift the historical trend from one harmed by violence to a new chapter of support and safeguarding. Participants were urged to adopt a new perspective, to consider themselves as guardians and champions for their families and broader communities. By enhancing essential abilities in areas such as communication, leadership, and conflict resolution, participants were set on a path of personal change aimed at fostering a more secure and supportive social atmosphere.

Isipingo Police Service was also present to encourage men to report cases of abuse towards them from their partners. Contrary to popular beliefs and cultures, the police will take the case as serious in the same manner as if it were a woman who reported.

One of the beneficiaries noted that “If there has been a fight between a couple, the case is looked at without partiality and the law enforcement is trained not to have bias”.

At the same time, the conference in KwaMashu Ward 104, themed “Raising a Boy Child into a Man,” focused on the transformative impact of fatherhood in guiding young males toward becoming responsible and morally sound adults. Here, the PBT shared similar objectives to those in Isipingo, striving to cultivate social cohesion and disrupt the perpetuation of violence.

Participants were enlightened on aspects of men’s health and engaged in discussions that spanned across ages, thus contributing to a safer, more cohesive communities.

The conference objectives emphasised the importance of forging solid connections between men and boys and their collective responsibility in combating gender-based violence. It stressed that the overall health and well-being of men are crucial to the foundation of a resilient community.

I grew up without my father being present, I recently only started knowing him on a personal level. He would only send money believing it was enough, not realizing that his absence had left feelings of anger and distrust towards him. Even though I see him regularly now, we struggle to bond because I barely know him as hard as I try to create a relationship with him there is distrust.”  A young man during KwaMashu men’s conference, said.

The dialogues at these conferences provided a rich assessment of the challenges within the community. Young men deliberated on their difficulties and probed possible solutions, while the elder generation communicated their wisdom and voiced their issues. This blending of viewpoints created a robust platform from which the community could draft a lasting blueprint for progress, reaffirming their dedication to impactful change.

A beneficiary stated that “If you are a man, the way we treat the women around you are important if you want them to respect you”.

The conversations guaranteed a thorough exchange of knowledge and experiences, ensuring that all challenges were considered, which fostered a united vision for change. This became a testament to the power of collective intention — when men come together purposefully, the strength of the wider community is significantly enhanced.

The Men’s Conferences in Isipingo and KwaMashu are remembered as much more than just historical meetups; they symbolise the effectiveness of community-driven efforts in addressing complex social issues. By rallying men of all ages to confront and develop solutions for violence and discord, these conferences have etched significant landmarks in the historical fabric of KwaZulu-Natal’s townships.

Watson Bharu serves as the Communications Officer for the Kagisano Programme at Governance and Livelihoods Agenda.