News in South Africa
Traditional Healers and gender equality
By Wessel van den Berg
Gender Roles are often set by the strongest role models in a community. When a community leader acts in a certain way the people of the community often follow his or her actions, either just by observing them and respecting the person because of their authority, or by the rules that have been laid down by this person in authority.
This gives us as social activists a strategic opportunity to engage with communities, by working with the leaders of that community. The Abalingani Gender Programme (AGP) provided an introduction to working with men for gender equality to such a group 18 August 2008 in Cape Town, at the Winchester Mansions hotel.
Constella Futures, supported by the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) health policy initiative, made use of the services of the AGP program in working with their network of FBO (Faith Based Organisation) leaders and traditional leaders.
The participants came from as far as Giyane in Limpopo and Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape. The Amos Foundation has a network of farms which they work with, and do weekend camps, with farmers and farm-workers alike, and there were several representatives from traditional councils, including a chief from Kimberley.
Several conversations and debates were held about gender and the ways that women particularly are vulnerable to HIV. A passerby on Wednesday morning would have seen twenty or so people scattered about the Winchester Mansions parking lot, vigorously debating issues of gender and power.
Some of the actions the group committed to were:
- Introspection on gender values
- Acknowledge the other person
- Reduce partners
- Spending time and communicating well with children
- Create a safe space 4 open discussion (island)
- Encourage each other to change
- Education of truck drivers
All expectations that were set out in the beginning were met. The whole group ended the training with plans to implement some of the exercises and activities in their own constituencies back home. The little room at the back of the Winchester mansions had welcomed a group of eager learners and after only two days produced a group of gender activists! One of the participants, who runs a male involvement program in Mount Frere commented at the end of the training: ‘This is just like a dream come true, I will use this in my work.’
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