We desperately need an empowered, progressively socialised and a new generation of boys and men, says the writer. File picture: Brenton Geach
The international awareness-raising campaign, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, takes place from November 25 to December 10 every year.

The truth is, gender-based violence (GBV) is a globally widespread phenomenon, and South Africa is no exception. In fact, we find ourselves having to deal with these issues daily.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of GBV. It is defined in various ways by different researchers and organisations. It is the general term used to capture violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, as well as the unequal power relationships between the genders within the context of a specific society, according to health-genderviolence.org.

Worldwide, the campaign researches and promotes awareness, focusing on women and girls as victims of GBV. While statistically females are more likely to be victims, men and boys are also victims.

As a social activist and a founder of a movement (the Young Men Movement - YMM) that seeks to socialise, educate and groom boys differently, I often get Facebook inboxes from young women on the abuse they are enduring or have endured.

It breaks my heart because boys and men are at the centre of these unspeakable actions as perpetrators. However, little is done to address, empower and socialise boys differently.

Last week, I had a chat with a Facebook lady friend who had been subjected to sexual abuse for more than 10 years. She had been silent all along, but eventually she had to find help.

In romantic relationships, people break up, the woman seeks help and finds ways to heal emotionally, spiritually and physically. But the perpetrators (men) are more likely to move on and find a new girlfriend, who will also be subjected to abuse. As men, how often do we stop, self-evaluate and admit that we have a problem that needs to be addressed?

On Monday, I got another message from a girl, who wrote with a heavy heart. She is a victim of child molestation by an older cousin, and it is only now that she is speaking out.

Her speaking out has caused divisions in her family. Others are defending the cousin, while some are on her side. She kept quiet as she knew she wouldn’t be supported, but be victimised again. It is sad, heartbreaking and regressive.

Often, I never know what to say in response to such painful stories. They cripple me emotionally. However, they strengthen me to keep on doing what we do at YMM. We desperately need an empowered, progressively socialised and a new generation of boys and men.

The imbalances of power in gender inequality and discriminatory patriarchal practices against women and girls is found to be root causes of GBV. These patriarchal attitudes often favour men or boys over women and girls.

It starts at home with basic chores. The boy child will be excused from washing dishes, cooking and cleaning the house. According to some of our cultures, such chores are still seen as things to do by girls and women. It also does a great deal of disservice to the boy child and men. They grow up to be irresponsible, entitled and feeling superior. It is disempowering.

One cannot ignore the pre-democracy systems that contributed towards such disproportions. GBV is also a result of the intertwined individual, community, economic, cultural and religious factors interacting at different levels of our society. But we have to do something.

What measures are different stakeholders taking to reduce the high occurrence of sexual violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and economic violence by boys and men?

As this international campaign aims to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world, let’s rally behind it. The theme for this year is “Leave no one behind”.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. Email [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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