Gun Free South Africa and Sonke Gender Justice have partnered on a campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to support a toy gun-free festive season. Picture: Antoine de Ras/African News Agency(ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Gun Free South Africa and Sonke Gender Justice have partnered on a campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to support a toy gun-free festive season.

The campaign, “Don’t Groom For Violence”, is being held within the context of a national gun violence emergency.

Suleiman Henry, a senior trainer at Sonke Gender Justice, said: “Toys are an instrument of socialisation; every toy given to a child carries the message that we approve of that toy.”

Henry said that when people bought toys that imitated real weapons, children were encouraged to play at violence, so normalising violence.

“Instead of being socialised into violence, boys should be encouraged to embrace their caring side. We want to raise boys who say no to violence, who are considerate fathers and supportive partners.”

Nonhlanhla Skosana, a community mobilisation and education manager at Sonke Gender Justice, said the purpose of the campaign was to support a long-term vision of a safer, more peaceful and just South Africa.

“By encouraging gifts that are fun and educational, rather than toys of war, death and intimidation, children and their families and friends can actually begin to experience what it would be like to live in a country free from violence, even in play.”

Gun Owners of SA (Gosa) member Alan Martheze said the problem was not with toy guns, but with how parents taught their children.

“The family environment is far more than the toy itself; it is the decisive factor in a child’s character. How a parent behaves toward a child has much more influence than a toy,” Martheze said.

Gosa spokesperson Tim Flack said: “We all played with toy guns, but they did not turn us into criminals and robbers.

“Toys give form to behaviour by stimulating play; they do not motivate aggressive behaviour.”

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