Exactly two years ago the late Dr Molefi Sefularo, then the Deputy Minister of Health, launched the Brothers for Life campaign before 10 000 people in KwaMashu, Durban. They were the first of tens of millions to be reached by this groundbreaking initiative.
At the launch, Sefularo challenged Brothers for Life to address issues that go beyond individual men's behaviour, but seek to address social norms, policies, culture and build supportive environments for men to live healthier and more responsible lives - for themselves, their partners and their families.
The campaign was established as a multi-sectoral initiative driven by the partners in the SANAC Men's Sector, and supported by mainly by USAID/PEPFAR. Over the past two years more than 100 organisations have participated in the implementation of Brothers for Life, and the number is still growing.
In that time, Brothers for Life has reached over 30-million people through mass media and 400 000 people through interpersonal communication, with messages that promote and entrench positive male norms on behaviour and health.
The campaign is supported by the Deputy President of South Africa and the Minister of Health and over the past two years has received strong support from a number of positive role models both in South Africa and internationally.
"I will not forget the first time I saw the 'new man' advertisement on television in 2009. I thought to myself, 'at last, an initiative that seeks to engage men positively by appreciating the fact that there are good men out there'," says Mbulelo Dyasi, who hails from the Eastern Cape.
"As men of the Eastern Cape , for the first time we had tangible messages and content that we could use to engage men in our communities, and we could not pass up this opportunity," he continues.
"Brothers for Life has really helped us as Men for Change, a men's structure within the South African Police Service to empower and influence other men, especially with the number of challenges that face policemen and women in the performance of their duties," says Captain Jeffrey Nkosi, of the Mpumalanga SAPS provincial head office.
The work done by Brothers for Life has not gone unnoticed. It was named as Best Practice Model in the Minister of Health's COUNTRY PROGRESS REPORT ON THE DECLARATION OF COMMITMENT ON HIV/AIDS 2010 REPORT, and nominated for two Loerie Awards and one South African Advertising Awards, winning two silver awards on campaign identity and public relations activation.
Internationally, the campaign has now expanded to Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia through a partnership with UNICEF.
"These two years could not have been a success without our partners, in particular those with limited resources in communities who, despite this limitation, have enabled us to reach hundreds of thousands of men on the ground. These foot soldiers are the heroes of the campaign," says Mandla Ndlovu, Programme Manager for Brothers for Life.
"We would also like to pay tribute to our ambassadors for making the campaign the success it is today - men like Patrick Shai came out to tell their personal stories and in the process sacrificing a lot emotionally to bring messages to the fore, and the likes of John Smit, Graeme Smith, Matthew Booth and Teko Modise, who gave more than their just their names but also their time to support the campaign," Mandla continues.
Desmond Lesejane, Deputy Director at Sonke Gender Justice, says the campaign has done well to raise issues and the responsibilities of men in the health of their families, and to address the barriers that prevent gender transformation in households and communities.
"However, we have only scratched the surface and the challenge in the next two years is to make sure that every single man is a Brothers for Life ambassador - not only in words, but in actions," says Desmond.
Happy Birthday to Brothers for Life!