EMPOWAMEN SUMMIT SHINES LIGHT ON MEN’S ROLE IN SOCIETY

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By Precious Mupenzi

  • The EmpowaMen Summit in Johannesburg convened 3000 men to address toxic masculinity, challenge stereotypes, and combat Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) while strengthening families.
  • Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu emphasised the shared responsibility of parenting, highlighting the importance of both parents as primary caregivers and mentors for children’s physical and emotional development.
  • The summit provided a platform for discussions on various topics, including mental health, sexuality, spirituality, GBVF, parenting, and family dynamics, empowering men to become responsible citizens and positive role models in society.

The role that men play in building a better society, whether it be in a family nucleus when it comes to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), or as fathers separated from their children, as well as taking meaningful action regarding the severe impact of HIV on women and girls in South Africa, was thrust into the spotlight at the EmpowaMen Summit.

In Johannesburg, Gauteng, 3000 men gathered to tackle toxic masculinity at its root, shatter stereotypes and rewrite the script of manhood while assisting the country in its fight against GBVF and strengthening families.

Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, was speaking at the summit and said that parenting is the responsibility of both parents as primary caregivers to the children, adding that the parental figures provide for the child’s physical needs, protection from harm, and impart them with skills and cultural values until they reach legal adulthood.

“Due to the nuptiality patterns and the prevalence of female-headed households in South Africa and across the globe, absent living fathers is a common and increasing phenomenon affecting families in South Africa.”

The summit aimed to be a safe space for men and during the panel discussion sessions, delegates deliberated on a range of issues including mental health, sexuality, spirituality, GBVF, raising children and families.

Men were empowered on how best to turn their lives around and become responsible citizens and role models for current and future generations.

“Those who do not live with their children should make time to bond as early as possible during the earlier years of their children. Such moments will afford both father and child opportunities to share dreams and proper guidance on navigating life’s challenges.  Trust will develop and the child will look up to their father as a perfect role model.  Men should also model positive behaviour for other fatherless children in their communities,” said Minister Zulu.

She said that the Department recognised that the population of men faced various risks of HIV infections due to socio-structural factors such as social gender norms assigned to men and women.

“Patriarchal social arrangements often serve to fuse power and privilege into the hands of men while simultaneously curtailing the autonomy of women proving to be major obstacles to ending new HIV infections.”

Whilst reflecting, Minister Zulu said that in perspective, it appeared as if men and boys were silent in efforts to combat GBV and Femicide during the second decade of the 21st Century, and as a result, they were seemingly relegated to the status of external observers even when they are responsible for almost all societal ills, including, GBVF.

“Men’s positive involvement in fatherhood and caregiving can improve gender dynamics and contribute to gender equality, decrease violence, and improve the health and wellbeing of women, men, and children,” she said.

 

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