5 Minutes With Karabo

What’s your passion?

Human rights issues – at the moment dealing with girls who are missing school because of their menstruation and media and communications – I was a journalist, so I like to respond to critical news issues and engage with media houses through social media.


What change are you keen to drive?

School dropout rates, girl child health issues and breaking stereotypes that surround menstruation. Bringing back dignity and encouraging girls to stay in school.

How are you driving change?

Encouraged by a story I read on Ground Up about a girl who didn’t have money for pads and had to use rags and newspaper. I realised that I needed to start making a change. We did research within the community on why girls were dropping out of school and work and found out that for many of them it was because of their menstruation. They would be too embarrassed to go to school or work.

In January, we started the Sanitary Pads Campaign to raise awareness – we provide sanitary pads to learners and people in the community.

We also work with young people and have separate round table discussions with girls and boys and talk about issues affecting them, health issues like menstruation and stereotypes. With boys we make them understand why girls have to go through the menstruation process. We then put the two groups together so that they can engage with each other.

We want the youth to influence policymakers and ensure that pads are available in schools like condoms are.

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?

Supporting me, giving me information on how to open an organisation, drafting proposals and constitutions. We want to partner with other Activators who are also involved in our cause and start a national organisation.

How do you motivate yourself?

Because I am a man, born to a woman that motivates me. My friends also motivate me and to see young woman standing up for themselves.

Final comment?

We as the Sanitary Campaign feel that the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, must motivate government to speed the process and add more manpower to addressing the issue. But we want the government to focus on this serious issue 365 days of the year and not only for 16.

We want the government and policy makers to engage and involve young people when they make decisions. More money should be given to gender-based violence awareness and it should start in schools.

To raise awareness we are going to take pads and paste them on walls in communities that have high numbers of gender-based violence with messages to highlight the issue and to get people to talk about the issue of gender-based violence and menstruation.

PROVINCE: Western Cape

MUNICIPAL DISTRICT:  Metro District

Activator since: 2012

 

 


 

Press Release: National Volunteer Service Day (NVSD)

The Power of the collective youth: National Volunteer Service Day (NVSD)

If you think South African Youth is apathetic about positive change and public good, you need to reframe that thought. Young leaders that are part of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers’ Network are running a National Volunteer Day on Saturday, November 28, 2015.

The National Youth Policy Document encourages community and volunteer services. Under the Youth Responsibility section, the documents encourages “Participating in the social compact initiatives of government and civil society that promote voluntarism, African values, traditions and heritage”. However, without the implementation strategies one would see the policy as a utopic dream. These change drivers are putting that aspect into action.

A group of Activators called the Power of 40 conceived this idea upon realizing the apathy of young people when it comes to giving their time to make a difference. The aim of the project is to re-ignite the spirit of Activism for those who want to get involved in different causes but are not sure how. This capitalises on the power of the collective.

The Power of 40 believes that besides Mandela day, which is a National volunteer Day, there is no other time where people (in this instance young people) get together and do good.

Representatives from each province are conducting their activities differently, according to what they see to be a key necessity. The activities are as follows:

  • Northern Cape: Will be visiting the Helen Bishop Home for disabled children and have a party for them from 8am until 10 and the go back the next day to donate some toys and clean their Premises with a team of volunteers from Dept. of Correctional Services.

  • North West: These activators will be visiting the Emmanuel Old Age Home and Disability Center. They will be cooking, cleaning and spending time with the residents.

  • Limpopo: Activators will be visiting the Samritan Children Home Center to launch a reading club.

  • Free State: In Qwaqwa, activators will be visiting the family of the late activator, Tshidiso Motloung, and they will donate food and clean the home.

  • KwaZulu-Natal: These activators will be hosting a Street Closet initiative in collaboration with Streetwise. This is to get homeless people to attend and pick clothing.

  • Gauteng Province will be having a Lion’s Den event, where young people will be pitching their business ideas to their peers and industry leaders.

  • Activators in the Eastern Cape will be spending the day at the SOS Children’s home in Mthatha.

  • In the Western Cape, activators will be donating time, food, books, clothes and painting at 12151 Maselini Street in Wallacedine, Kraaifontein.

Young people can be part of this movement by spreading the word, donating whatever they can and helping out if they are close to this space. Change begins with an individual.

Lending a hand to those that need it is for all. You are challenged to spend your Saturday differently. Join other Activators in your provice for the  National Volunteer Service Day on Saturday 28 November 2015. For more contact Themba Vryman
060 749 2699

Provincial contact people:
NC 078 246 6577 Fernando
FS 060 749 2699 Themba
NW 079 643 9799 Itu
KZN 076 752 2545 Nolz
WC 076 435 8080 Anele
Lim 082 813 9857 Pearl
GP 073 934 2955 Mabuza
MP 082 599 0887 Mthokozisi
EC 082 530 5801 Dr Nongqwala

 


 

Activators Infiltrating Adacemia Spaces

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“If our people lose courage to confront what is wrong then we became collaborators”  

These were some of the prominent quotes (by Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela and Jerry Rawlings) kept on coming up on the minds of the audience members as African renaissance scholars; cerebral orator and social change drivers Nqaba Mpofu and Vukulu Sizwe Maphindani were addressing young academic leaders at higher institutions of learning.

Mpofu gave a lecture at Nelson Mandela University on the 13th of October while Maphindani was speaking at Johannesburg Central College graduation ceremony on  16 October 2015.

The aim of the duo’s talk was to ignite a framework that will allow African youth to create a new society. They used the events to reposition  and reclaim the African soul, pride through their Pan-Africanism lectures. They berated the dominant popular culture’s notion that says Africa methodologies are outmoded.

Maphindani said “I am also tempted to remind what most of you already know and that is, civilisation through education started in Africa. Therefore it only make sense that Pan Africanism ideology must be part of the education system. The Pan Africanism ideology system has ability to help Africans to unlearn inferiority complex tendencies.

I am here to remind you that gone are the days where chanting “power to the people” while raising your right hand to symbolise the African pride and struggle. Your condition today cannot be changed by that.” said Maphindani.

He went on to say students and young leaders from all over the continent must not look for outside sources to liberate them because real freedom starts from the mind and there is nothing or no one has power to stop from achieving what one’s mind has conceived. Maphindani said the recent youth revolution both in South Africa and throughout the continent has shown that the existing  exploitative system has failed. “South Africa is at either the edge of complete crisis or rebuilding phase and therefore now is the right time for young pan African patriotic leaders to rise and take a lead because we all know that the current generation of leaders will not do that. I am not accusing them of being incompetent or unpatriotic but my view is rather informed by the fact they are exposed to the kind of information, skills and resources that we, as young people have.”

Maphindani concluded his session by Nkwame Nkruma’s quote “If we are to remain free, if we are to enjoy the full benefit of Africa’s resources, we must be united to plan for our total defence and full exploitation of our material and human means in the full interest of our people. To do it alone we will limit our horizons, curtail our expectations and threaten our liberty.

On the other hand, Mpofu’s lecture presented different viable ways of decolonising the education system. He said Pan African ideology is particularly important for the youth because it validates the African child by scrutinising enigmatic deceptions that lead to white supremacy tendencies and Africans inferiority complex.

He said “Pan Africanism is a blueprint for liberation of all Africans and should be advanced in higher education institutions to transform society. This need not be limited to having a course on Pan Africanism. Instead, it is a Pan African ideology that should influence the content and value system espoused through higher education.”

Mpofu and Maphindani followed on the steps by the late political icon Steve Biko who once said “It’s better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” The duo called upon students and all young people across the country to start infiltrating knowledge production and intelligentsia sectors by presenting alternative unconventional progressive African way forward philosophy.

Renowned political analyst, thought leader and columnist Steven Eli Friedman commended the two social change drivers (Mpofu and Maphindani) for challenging the status quo and the higher institutions of learning. “It might seem obvious but, with all ideologies there are different strains. There certainly is a need for different voices at our universities and in the broader society pointing out that some of our institutions seem unaware that were in Africa. The problem is to translate slogans into a real change of attitude and orientation” said Friedman.

Right to Know’s Campaign national coordinator Mark Weinberg shared the same sentiments with Sibeko. Weinberg said “It is very important to build a culture of democratic intellectual contestation. Clearly the dominate.

 


 

Mayine Imvula

Imvula! Mayine! One may think the hot temperature they are experiencing is typical of Spring and Summer but it is not so, most of South Africa is going through drought. “The only areas where there are not problems are the Eastern and Southern Cape. There are severe problems in Mpumalanga, KZN, most of the Free State, parts of Limpopo and parts of North West,” says Johan van den Berg, Santam agriculture manager: specialised crop insurance. “The northern parts of the Northern Cape are also suffering severer and in some parts of the Kalahari, north of Upington, rain last occurred more than 18 months ago.”  South African Weather Services calls it El Nino: a deviations from normal surface temperatures that can have large-scale impacts not only on ocean processes, but also on global weather and climate.  

You may not be have any water shortages or water pressure issues in your corner of the world but your pocket will soon feel it. The agricultural sector is hard hit; cattle dying due to lack of grazing grass and water. Farmers say that crops like maize and sorghum as well as sunflower are expected to have a low yield.  This means the prices of grain, chicken, oil, maize and dairy product will be on the rise. Couple this with a weak rand it translates to inflation in prices. Low income earners that use subsistence farming to supplement their income and ensure food security, are reported to already be struggling.

What do we do? Taking shorter showers and turning off the water when one is brushing their teeth may help ease the burden on reservoirs. Use grey water (used water) to irrigate your garden and do it late in the afternoon. Mines should start using recycled water for their operations instead of drinking water. All these are great for mitigation, but how do we ensure rainfall? Looks to me like we need a supernatural intervention.  Perhaps with little bit rainwater we have we must brew umqombothi and call on Nomkhubulwane and Queen Modjadji to intercede on our behalf.  Like they did in ancient times  we, the children of this land must choose a day and time when with one heart and mind we will dance  for the rain to fall. Mayine! Imvula!

 

 

5 Minutes With Vuyokazi

PROVINCE: Western Cape

MUNICIPAL DISTRICT: City of Cape Town

Activator since: 2015

What’s your passion?  

The emancipation and empowerment of women and social political activism. Youth participation in bringing about change.

 

What change are you keen to drive?

I come from a family of strong women and that inspires me. I have seen single parents who take care of their kids and still go to work, women who care for those who are HIV +, women who have faced challenges and come through it.

I want to see woman in leadership positions across all spheres of government and private sector, there are a number of women participating but only a few of them in leadership roles and I want to change that.

I believe that woman are nurturers and will bring a different leadership style.

I want to see youth participation in the leadership of South Africa, it is important for us to make sure that we are informed, involved and part of the processes.

How are you driving change?

Being involved in the social/political space in Cape Town and encouraging women to avail themselves to participate in change-making. 

I’m currently working on the development of a mentoring programme with young women where we match them with great role models from the industry they want to work in.

Mentoring is important to me because in my community there is a lack of role models and it is better if young women have someone they can reach out to.

As young professionals we meet and collaborate, we also talk about our goals and see how we can assist, develop and support each other.

I am also the coordinator and, facilitator of a tutoring and mentoring programme with Grade 9 learners in maths and English at the organisation I work for Iliso Care Society in Khayelitsha.

I work as a sexual and gender-based violence ambassador for the Department of social development and Department of health in making sure people are aware of the Thuthuzela Care Centres. Community-based spaces where those who were raped can come and see a doctor, social worker and get support. Shower facilities are also available and if the person needs to see the police, they are called to come to the centre.  

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?

In so many ways, specifically the articulation and public speaking modules.

I have also used most of the practical tools such as the ice-breakers, project development tools and how to identify your stakeholders. The social political navigation module has added to my knowledge and broadened my thinking as well.  

Networking with fellow Activators has also been very beneficial.  

 

How do you motivate yourself?

I pray. My faith and belief in God motivates me.

 My passion for what I do and seeing people persevere and achieve through all the odds.

 

Final comment? 

Gender activism is so important, we need to be consistent from the start, we need to speak about issues and be aware about what is happening around us and then we will see change and empower each other 

Ukuthwala

With Christmas drawing close, an alarming rate of girls aged between 14 and 18 from Lusikisiki- in Rural Pondoland, Eastern Cape are being abducted and forced into marriage with older men; some old enough to be their Grand Fathers. This practice is known as Ukuthwalwa and dates back to our own Great Grand Parents but sadly even today it is still a harsh reality to some of our sisters.

According to Girls-Not-Brides, Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations – and straying from tradition could mean exclusion from the community. But as Graça Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela, says, traditions are made by people – we can change them.

33 African countries set the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both girls and boys, while 4 have set it above the age of 18 for both (Algeria, Lesotho, Libya, Rwanda). However, many countries that have set the minimum age at 18 allow exceptions wherein girls can be married off with their parents’ or the court’s consent. (Africa Child Policy Forum, 2013).

The fact that these girls are being victimized and their rights are being violated cannot not be ignored. They are forced to practice cultural norms entrenched onto them by society and stereotypes. For example, if you constantly tell your girl child that her grave is at her in-laws’, then you live her with no choice but to succumb to such practices.

There are many factors that contribute to the continuation of Ukuthwala. Historical constructs on gender roles, tradition & culture, as well as security play a big role in the logic behind this practice. It is a continuous oppression of women’s rights and is happening globally. Many parents marry off their daughters young because they feel it is in her best interest, often to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault. Little consideration, if any, is given on the young girl’s stance on getting married; that occurs to a point where they feel it is a cultural necessity.

Zooming in on one of the contributing factors, which is poverty, we see that when a young girl grows up eating Corn off the cob which is known as Inkobe, Umqa and imfene and the opportunity to eat a better arises, they go into the marriage institution without parental consent. All the parents receive letter is a letter stating that they should not look for their daughter; In this case it is child marriage that is not physically forced.

I spoke to Xolelwa Mbiko from Rural Ntabankulu. She was battered for just 20 sheep when she was 16 years old and  the man she was forced to marry was her pastor who was 3 times her age. He spent most of his time travelling so her wifely duties included travelling with him which compromised her studies Her Husband died over 3 years ago, but she could not return to her home simply because she had to mourn her husband’s death for a year. This ‘mourning’ also included Court battles with his children. She finally got a settlement but it was not enough to sustain her so she choose to go back to school and complete her Grade 12. She is currently studying towards her Bachelor of Education. Xolelwa has a sad story with what may seem like a beam of light at the end, but other young women have it worse and have to live a life they did not plan for.

This gives us a clear picture that the experience must be heartbreaking and traumatic. These girls’ future is bleak with little to no opportunity to gain Educational and financial freedom as a woman, which broadens the gap of woman-to-man dependency and aims to defeat the advocacy on women’s rights and African Feminism.

This is the cruelest form of women and child abuse. It is time for us to unite as a country and stand against this practice.

Lusanda Yose is a 25-year-old Activator from Umtata who obtained her Bachelors in Computer Science at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2012.

She fell in love with politics as a student and that is how she joined ACTIVATE!

She works with orphaned children, child-headed homes and abused children. Through this she has managed to establish working relationships with Love Life in Umtata, which is where her meetings are convened with the children.

 

image source: google

5 Minutes With Lance

What’s your passion?

As an academic, scholar and activist, my passion is to contribute to the strengthening of the African health system for the betterment of the African people. I exercise this passion in areas of public health, gender equity and equality, fostering social change, community development, transformation, global citizenship and incessantly challenging historical and contemporary social injustices.

I identify myself as a pro-African feminist man and aim to use my areas of research and scholarship to assist in the development and rewriting the narrative of the African Continent.


What change are you keen to drive?

There are major gaps within our current health system and my aim is to contribute to health systems strengthening through knowledge production, activism and capacity building at both micro and macro levels of society.

At a community level I am passionate about mobilising people so that we can address issues at a micro level, through sharing knowledge and engaging people I aim to drive change, promote consciousness and in turn mitigate human suffering, oppression and marginalisation.


How are you driving change?

I am driving change through my research, currently I am preparing for my PHD that will focus on the effects of violence and how people understand and experience violence in their personal and public spaces. Violence and associated issues are important to me because it is one of the main public health issues impeding the development and progression of South African people. Through my work, I seek to gain narratives and knowledge from communities that are unrepresented and get their stories and voices into mainstream media.

My aim is to engage people as active partners in producing knowledge about their subjective realities and to advocate for inclusion and social justice.

My current and prospective scholarly work is grounded in Health Systems and Policy Research and I have written articles and forthcoming academic journal publications in the areas of Gender & Sexualities, TB & HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Transformation.

Along with a group of other Activators, we founded a platform, www.afro-stories.co.za, which gives voice to marginal narratives and encourages understanding of issues and successes from the ground up.

I am also involved in research contributing to the knowledge gaps in the newly implemented National Health Insurance (NHI) in SA.

For the past two years I have worked in TB and HIV research focussing on the implementation of a new diagnostic TB tool – GeneXpert.

 

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?

I have gained a network of support; it has enhanced my social capital and assisted me in gaining perspective of what my specific interests are and how I can exercise my passionate in concrete ways

ACTIVATE! has helped me to connect the dots and enhance my perspective in applying and integrating my academic experience with driving change in communities.

 

How do you motivate yourself?

I’m motivated by my passion – to see the betterment of the African people and the African continent. My mom has also been amazing by always supporting my vision.

 

Final comment?

My enthusiasm stems from coming from an under-resourced community and my studies have ignited a passion in me to be an activist. I want to enable people to access knowledge through my research so that they are informed. I have learned that by thinking critically I can contribute positively.

Action the #NoFeesReport, Minister

The quest for a free and quality education has had more support in the past few weeks following the #FeesMustFall movement that gripped the country’s universities. As to whether the gains made from this movement are implemented remains to be seen.

The release of the “no-fee varsity” report by the Department of Higher Education and Training is a step in the right direction. To be honest, I’m still pinching myself. Did this really happen? Back in March when we began the campaign to have the report released, it seemed like a very long shot. But then the wind changed.

I took the campaign to a community advocacy organisation, amandla.mobi where its members along with students, academics, workers and parents, came together and petitioned that the report be released. But the release of the report is not the end. What is needed now is to shift the public debate towards calls for Minister Nzimande to progressively implement the recommendations of the report to demolish fees which exclude countless young people. The release of the report is proof that the demands of students were recognised by the Department of Higher Education, including funding for ‘middle gap’ households, which generally earn too much to be considered poor, but too little to access loans. This group includes a variety of civil servants, police, nurses and teachers.

This report speaks to the bigger issues brought to light by the students and organisations such as amandla.mobi. The announcement by President Jacob Zuma that there will be no fee increment in university fees for 2016 was met with excitement and led to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and University of Pretoria Vice-chancellors agreeing to scrap registration fees. Institutions such as the University of Cape Town have also agreed to end outsourcing.

“The current student protests that have erupted across the country are historic. They demonstrate a younger generation willing to take up the struggle against inequality, and to insist on the principle of education for all. Our students are leading the national debate on education, they deserve our respect and attention,” says amandla.mobi campaigner Koketso Moeti.

“The demands of students are not only about the current generation of students, but our children and theirs.”

Moeti adds that the question of access to education is not an isolated issue but is part and parcel of the socio-economic condition in the country.

“It is our parents who are being paid poverty wages due to higher education institutions outsourcing policy.”

She reiterated the views of students: “Education is not, and should never be a commodity. Education is a right, and not a privilege. The commodification of education further perpetuates poverty by excluding the poor black child. Twenty-one years into our democracy, education still remains accessible to the rich who, in South Africa, remain the white rich population. When we call for decolonisation, we call also for the decolonisation of the western capitalist system that commodifies education. If the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed, how then do we expect the oppressed to free themselves when education still remains an entity that they cannot access? Higher education in South Africa is still accessible only to the elite. Statistics show that most people who are excluded for financial reasons are Black.”

At the University of Johannesburg the protests have been sustained. Last week, the university’s Vice Chancellor, Ihron Rensburg, said he has done everything in his power to break the peaceful protest by workers and students. He went on to say that the University of Johannesburg was the first to end outsourcing, but to date there is no signed agreement and workers have been treated like animals to be sold from one company to the next. Furthermore, the UJ Fees Must fall movement was assaulted by private security and police and subsequently arrested. The university also locked students in a library, and locked out workers from entering the campus. Despite an all-night vigil last week the Vice-Chancellor refuses to meet with students and workers.

In similar situations we have seen that people power triumphs. Despite the many attempts to divide students, workers and parents the victory in ending outsourcing is imminent. The University of Cape Town has shown us that victory is nigh if society stands in solidarity. The struggle to end outsourcing and for fees to fall is ongoing.

About Nqaba 

Nqaba Mpofu is part of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers’ Network of over 1600 young leaders who are driving change for the Public Good of South Africa. Nqaba is passionate about social justice, focusing mainly on literacy development on a national scale.

5 Minutes With Nomtika

What is your passion?

I am an unabashed feminist who is passionate about Sexual Reproductive Health, Gender Justice and HIV/AIDS. As a qualified and efficient communicator, I exercise this ‘passion’ through educating, facilitating and making use of media platforms to creatively share the message and create awareness.

I am also a supportive and collaborative social activist, so I do a lot of work in support and in partnership with other motivated youth.

What change are you keen to drive?

Getting to zero HIV infections, zero stigma and discrimination, zero AIDS- related deaths. One that will result in a gender just and  transformed society, where women and girls can make the choices about their own bodies, have full access and full choice to issues relating to their well-being and challenge historical beliefs that have shaped our perceptions of how we define ourselves.

How are you driving change?

I am a Peer Educator (HIV/AIDS, Family Planning and SRH), I just started as a member of the Sexual Reproductive Justice Coalition, I am a full supporter of the End Abortion Stigma Initiative (EASI), I am a blogger and vlogger. I am also an ambassador for ZAZI- which is a national women empowerment campaign.

As a social communicator, I am working with fellow Activators towards starting an African story-telling media house (afro-stories.co.za), as well as a training programme for gender awareness and SRH for women and girls.  I am more than happy to share my skills with other Activators tip help their development. I am there like a bear!

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?

ACTIVATE! has introduced me to a network of amazing young people. The various lenses at which these people see the world and the steps they take towards changing it has helped me broaden my way of thinking and become much more idea-to-action oriented. From the training resources to the strategic relationships and the friendships, ACTIVATE! has introduced me to my continent holistically.

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country in the next 5 years?

Broadening the currently limiting education system and introducing the “barefoot” (informal) aspect to it where young and old people can just learn their world and be. Through a broad and just education system (it does not even have to be a ‘system’), the constituents of social injustices in all aspects will start to erode.

Final Comment?

Visit my blog (nomtikamjwana.blogspot.com), stay healthy, discover and exercise your passion and hit me up if you’d like to organize a workshop/talk on Sexual Reproductive Health!

 

 

The influence of culture on gender identities

South Africa is a constitutional state that strives to promote the equality of rights for every gender, race, cultures and religions. Unfortunately too often these constitutional commitments and promises are not always implemented.

It is very important to highlight upfront that the term culture is broad. There is consecutive culture that is informed by traditional norms (e.g. men are heads of the households), modern popular culture which; is informed by global experience exchange (e.g. feminists also have a role to play in society), intellectuals culture; which is informed by constitution, academic information or discoveries (e.g. upholding human rights for everyone despite their age, race or culture is always important). Thus, our view isn’t based or bias to any of these cultures.

According to Stats SA 2011 Gender Statistics, South Africa ranks fourth among the 87 countries covered by the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.  This reflects the country’s strong legal framework in respect of gender equality and women’s rights. Of course Activate Network or Activators aren’t immune to these stereotype believes. Now and again we do observe some exclusion tendencies. In most cases, perpetrators do not have a negative intention to hurt others, but rather act out the cultural intolerant teachings.

Despite the usually misunderstood difference between gender and sex and the impact that it has on one’s identity, African culture is realistically a gender sensitive one. Social analysts and activists, [hopefully] understand that what you are born as (sex-biological) is not in proportion to how you would be identified as socially.  

More than two decades later, those discussions are still continuing throughout the country and within the Activate network.

What one would refer to as a challenge in this context, is the fact that South Africa is a culturally and religiously diverse country. That tends to create expectations on social interactions and behaviors. This has become somewhat a belief system and has resulted in psychologically influenced social misconceptions that have to do with gender roles.  

To give a practical example; one is born as a Xhosa girl, solely because of her parents being of that tribe/ethnic group. She is Christian, which already takes away a portion of her definition as a Xhosa-culturally.  Then she moves to a township and attends junior and senior school there, being exposed to a ‘street-smart’ culture that is liberal and not so stern in terms of gender roles, there she notices her strength and ability to challenge such stereotypes . Then she moves to the city and gets exposed to what society terms as ‘alternative gender identities’, the LGBTI community. She identifies with them and befriends them, which takes away a portion of her Christian religion in totality. Then she gets married to a metro-sexual man, who is in touch with his feminine side but still identifies as a man attracted to women. Now take this web and link it back to this woman being Xhosa. How much of her ‘heritage’ or ‘culture’ has she stuck to? And is it wrong that this is the type of culture she has adopted? The answer is debatable.

That is normally more or less the experience of most South Africans.

Now let us take the issue back home to Activate Network. The organization and the social change drivers often speak of a just and inclusive society.  The statement sounds very interesting but the big question that we do not really ask is, what does this mean in terms of gender Identity?

A number of things such as:

  • The fact that gender identity is not one’s sex. The two influence each other, but they are not the same.

  • Understanding what feminist movements are about and what they stand for; which is definitely not to shoot men down.

  • Gender inclusivity and the comprehension that the LGBTI community is not an ‘otherwise’ or ‘alternative’ gender, but an identity, like that of men and women.

  • Challenging the stigma attached to sex through gender roles and perceptions

This is how other activators view the issue both within the South African landscape and within the Activate network.

Cape Town based metrosexual health activist and Activator Karabo Manatisi said “The cultural prejudice or impartiality on gender identity has an ability to build or destroy others. The sad reality is that most men from black communities use culture to rubberstamp outdated patriarchal views. I have experienced a lot of verbal victimization when I am playing my sexual activism role (distributing sanitary pads). According to some men from black communities, culture doesn’t allow REAL MEN to talk, let alone touch sanitary pads.  Sad and backward as this sound, unfortunately we have men within the Activate Network whose cultural informed thinking is less progressive. “

On the other hand, East London Fort Hare LLB Student and 2015 feminist Activator, Isasiphinkosi Mdingi said “Society needs to unlearn the standards that have been made to categorize the people’s genders. As a feminist, I think this notion that a girl’s place is in the kitchen and they won’t be women enough if they are not married to MEN has to stop. I think organizations like Activate are doing their bit to address patriarchal beliefs but I think they can do more.”

A Durban based Indian muslin 2014 social entrepreneur and Activator Nazareen Ebrahim said “Culture influences gender identity by re-enforcing the stereotypes associated with roles assigned to women and men. I have heard the argument too that the emasculation of men by more independent women breaking out of the mold of being housewives and mothers and moving into earning their livelihoods, has contributed to men becoming more effeminate in their ways, thus having a preference for men rather than women. I cannot back that argument with solid research but have heard this multiple times as a continuous thread of conversation.”

Gauteng based arts practitioner, producer and Activator Sibusiso Nkambule said “The native people were given a mandate from unwritten laws that a woman is a woman because she embraces a weaker nature. A man is a man because of strength .When a woman reflects different qualities we deem that as unacceptable. A man becomes a little less firm they question your manhood. If a woman is firm then she is disrespectful therefore patriarchy is something that will have to be undone from root level, where we learn our identity we need to be taught equality. Activate in my own opinion is a perfect platform tone and voice to speak of anything that is a social issue. I think the network is doing a great job. It was at activate when I discovered the LBGIQ community and they were vocal and they made some of understand exactly what they are about. The network could do more however it is doing enough.”

Bloemfontein based Free State University LLB Student and 2013 male Activator; Tshepo Mabuya summarized the cultural influence on gender identities as the contestation of values terrain where unfortunately masculinity abuse of power comes into play or  those who constantly shout louder (even if they might not have facts to support their views) turn to be hailed as the winners “The influence of cultures leads to the inferior and superior complexes that various genders fall victim to in their identities.

Taking the issue outside of South Africa or Activate Leadership context, you would realize virtual space or the web has however created an incline in gender-based violence which mainly stems from mostly men trying to ‘reclaim’ masculinity through various forms of violence. According to United Words (2011), Within South Africa, there is a specific atmosphere which reinforces traditional gender roles. Under Apartheid, the black male was emasculated. The whites who enforced Apartheid were the males who held all the power within South Africa, therefore, black males did not fit into their “specific” gender roles. Their masculinity was stripped from them. After Apartheid, the black males started looking for ways to regain their power, leading to a specific act of violence found in the townships in South Africa. It is known as “Corrective Rape”.

“Corrective Rape” is the idea that Lesbian women/ gay men can be cured of their homosexuality through heterosexual men raping them. The idea that these individuals need to be “cured” stems from gender roles. The men who commit the rape are trying to force women and men back into their prescribed gender roles.

More than two decades later, those discussions are still continuing throughout the country and within the Activate network.

In essence, heterosexual men also need to be conscientised of their privilege in society, which is influenced by history and enables them to have access to opportunities over women, lesbians and gays in society. Keep in mind that this privilege is based on gender identities, without taking away the fact that in some instances men can be victims of oppression; such as in racial and economic factors.