Cape Town. 02/05.13. Former Eurythmics singer and activist for women and children rights Annie Lennox speaks at a Cape Town Press club meeting. Picture Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - The fight against gender-based violence in South Africa will not succeed without the involvement of men in feminism activities, says Scottish singer, activist and philanthropist Annie Lennox.

“Contemporary feminism, where men become feminists with women, is needed to bring an end to the abuse of women and children… so that fathers can bring up their sons to respect their sisters and mothers.”

Lennox, HIV/Aids activist and UNAids goodwill ambassador, was speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Thursday.

Through her petition, “Make It Happen”, Lennox is calling on the media, the government and religious leaders to commit to tackling the issue of gender-based violence on both a professional and personal level.

“Everyone refers to the end of apartheid in 1994 as (being as) significant as the 1865 agreement to abolish slavery in America. These events weren’t simply miracles that occurred by themselves. It took a collective effort, courage and vision to achieve these goals.”

The petition, launched at the beginning of the year, is backed by organisations such as the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Charlize Theron Outreach Africa Project and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Lennox shot to fame as a member of British band The Eurythmics in the 1980s before she embarked on a solo career. She said the “tipping point”, which led to her becoming an activist, was on a visit to South Africa in 2003, when she was invited to perform at the launch of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids charity concert.

“It was absolutely mind-blowing when I witnessed Mandela describing the HIV/Aids pandemic as a virtual genocide of the South African people, especially women and children,” said Lennox. “The realisation of what was happening hit me. I am a woman and mother, and I could not understand why I was not hearing about this pandemic outside South Africa? I was ashamed and outraged… I had to do something.”

Since then, Lennox has gone on to support several anti-rape and gender advocacy groups, and has raised awareness for HIV charities in Africa.

“I’ve been working continuously to support women and children affected by HIV/Aids in the country. I’ve seen how gender-based violence is one of the factors that comes into play with the spread of Aids, so it’s not unknown to me. I simply feel a moral obligation to respond.

“Gender-based violence is deeply rooted and affects all of us.

“Until people realise the extent of it and the urgency of the matter then people will continue to live in a culture where brutality and violence undermine the very fabric of society,” Lennox said.

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Cape Argus