Masiphephe Network’s Brothers for Life to Influence Change in Men and Boys

Masiphephe Network’s Brothers for Life to Influence Change in Men and Boys

Masiphephe Network’s Brothers for Life to Influence Change in Men and Boys

No day passes without a horrific story about the killing or abduction of women and children in South Africa. The high prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) is still a thorny issue for civil society, government, the private sector, in the media and communities at large. While there have been efforts from every sector of society to curb the spread of the deadly pandemic, the scourge of violence has remained steadily high in many communities across the country.

The more recent reported cases that sent shockwaves at home and internationally, include the cases of Bontle Mashiyane (6) whose body was found mutilated in Mnganduzweni, Mpumalanga and Namhla Mtwa (35) who was shot nine times allegedly by her boyfriend in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.

The USAID funded GBV Project (known as the Masiphephe Network) is a GBV advocacy group which seeks to coordinate and collaborate with all stakeholders that are mandated and involved in reducing and responding to GBV in South Africa. The network that is led by the health communication and advocacy organization, Centre for Communication Impact (CCI), collaborates with community-based civil society organizations and over 100 government and social partners in designing and implementing interventions intended to change the status quo.

Masiphephe Network has revived and launched the community-based Brothers for Life clubs in Alexandra, Emalahleni, EThekwini, Mbombela and Soweto. Brothers for Life is a national men’s health and social movement which seeks to mobilise all South African men to take responsibility for their own health, oppose violence and lead positive lives. The Brothers for Life Clubs will be used as safe spaces for men to discuss issues that affect them, and influence change in behaviour that perpetuates violence against women and children by men.

The Brothers for Life clubs will host a series of workshops that are geared to empower men and boys on various health and wellness related issues. The workshops that will be held monthly will provide opportunities for men to learn more about social issues and GBV such as alcohol and drug abuse, economic strengthening, fatherhood, men’s health and HIV, communications and relationships amongst others. The idea of establishing the Brothers for Life clubs has been bandied out for some time, after studies conducted revealed that there is a dire need for men to have a ‘brother’ whom they can talk to.

Since inception of the Brothers for Life movement over a decade ago, research findings attributed high levels of exposure to targeted men, to different mass media campaigns. However, private messages via social media platforms and the pilot evaluation, indicates that men want someone to talk to. Recent research undertaken to assess the impact of mass media campaigns ran over the years, recommended that men desperately need a safe space where they can meet, engage and learn from each other. This will go a long way in addressing social, cultural and harmful norms that men harbour towards women.

The Masiphephe Network empowers men and links them to stakeholders that provide psychosocial, legal and health related services, among others. Male Engagement Advisor at CCI, Sipho Ntlangula, believes that while many social partners have made strides in influencing behavioural change that often leads to toxic masculinity among men and boys, the formation of the Brothers for Life clubs will go a long way in mobilizing men to do the right thing.

At the two clubs that have been launched in Emalahleni, the members were excited to join the movement. One member shared a story about how regular unfounded beating by his uncle influenced the man he has become. This member recounts a series of violence-related incidents he perpetrated against his loved ones;

“I was violated by my uncle who used to beat me every day for no reason. I hated my uncle for a very long time, as I didn’t understand why I had to suffer such abuse”. When I was a little older, I used physical force to discipline my brother and an ex-girlfriend. With the Brothers for Life workshops, I now feel a lot better and have been referred for counselling to Project Support Association Southern Africa (PSASA)”.

Another member from Kanyamazane in Mbombela also spoke candidly about how his anger and violent past landed him in jail;

“Growing up, I realise that I have anger issues which lead me to be abusive towards women and other men. After I participated in a number of abusive incidents that led me to miss classes, drop out of school and attended court cases, I realise that I needed help. I used to beat up my girlfriend because of my own insecurities and I would also pick fights with other men. This emanated from the anger I had because I grew up with no parents. It was worsened by children who would brag about their parent, while I had none. After attending the Brothers for Life workshops, I have learned that there are men like me who had a very rough past and are willing to change”.

In Alexandra where intimate partner violence is rife, one member spoke at the Brothers for Life launch about his deep cultural beliefs;

“I used to believe that once I have paid lobola for a woman, that gives me a right to own her. Being part of the Brothers for Life in Alex taught me that I cannot own another human being”.

The Brothers for Life members in Diepkloof praised the formation of the club and vowed to use the opportunity to share their daily challenges. A man who has volunteered to use every opportunity to reach out to other men says; “The workshop has been an eye opener for me as I learned that many other men have common challenges as me.”

In EThekwini where cultural beliefs have often been cited as the major source of violence against women, a 23-year-old man, who for many years believed that his manhood is defined by the number of women he could have, is taking responsibility for his past behaviour;

“My upbringing was such that as a man I needed to have many girlfriends and ended up with three children by different mothers. I didn’t care much about whether the kids had food and other necessities, but other men have advised me to take responsibility and am sharing the little I get from my uber job”.

Men and boys interested in joining the clubs are encouraged to speak to our coordinators {LINK to “Get Help page} or get in touch with us through our social media platforms and website; Facebook: brothersforlifeSA; Twitter: @brothersSA and Instagram: brothersforlifeZA. Joining the club is MAHALA. YenzaKahle!