The Men’s Parliament, which gets underway in Cape Town on Monday, will not be just another talk shop but rather a way to engage and mobilise men to become part of the solution to gender-based violence.
This is according to Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu who made the remarks at a media briefing on Sunday ahead of the launch of the first national Men’s Parliament.
The Men’s parliament, is a joint initiative between the Social Development Department and civil society organisation, Takuwani Riime Men’s movement, to address the scourge of gender-based violence and social ills in society.
“Takuwani Riime!” is a Venda expression meaning “let us stand up together”. The movement calls on all men to stand up and be counted.
The parliamentary sitting will be held under the theme, “Institutionalising a Responsive Men’s Movement” on 19 November which is commemorated as International Men’s Day.
Speaking on the need for the Men’s Parliament, Bogopane-Zulu said men can play a role in ending gender-based violence by starting conversations that break down patriarchal notions of the role of women in society.
“All of the challenges society faces such as gender-based violence, high rates of femicide, high rates of HIV/Aids, can be reversed only if men are part of the dialogue to find solutions,” said the Deputy Minister.
Bogopane-Zulu said the initiative will provide and allow men the space to express their concerns and to create dialogue amongst men on how to become part of the solution.
The national Men’s Parliament is a culmination of nine provincial dialogues under the same banner.
It comes just a week before South Africa launches 16 Days of Activism which is a campaign that challenges violence against women and children.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Lechesa Tsenoli, who will take part in the sitting, said society needs to target the root of the problem by addressing the notions of patriarchy that exist within society.
Takuwani Riime representative Ntando Yola said through the Men’s Parliament, the civil society body aims to institutionalise a responsive men’s movement which is long overdue.
“We are not only responsible for the high rates of violence, but we also turn a blind eye to these. It is the men that need to champion the change,” he said.
South African National AIDS Council’s (SANAC) Rev. Zwo Nevhutalu said the issues tackled here (men’s parliament) will have a direct impact on the National Strategic Plan.
“When men are galvanised to champion change, we have no doubt that we can overcome these challenges facing communities.
“We need to change the national psyche. We want the totality of society to say this is our problem,” said Nevhutalu.
When questioned on how the impact of the Men’s Parliament will be measured, Nevhutalu said the efficacy of such initiatives can be measured through HIV infection rates especially among young women and girls.
This, Nevhutalu says is possible because there is a direct link between gender-based violence, masculinity of men and new HIV infections.
Referencing the Health Minister, Nevhutalu said that HIV is an epidemic suffered by women but perpetuated by men.
By engaging men, Nevhutalu said society will be one step closer in addressing gender-based violence and its impact on society.
The Men’s Parliament will kick off with feedback from the provincial dialogues.