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Parliament, with the Department of Social Development and civil society organisations, held a Men’s Sector – Stakeholder Engagement summit yesterday at Parliament, to consolidate their partnership and efforts to end violence against women and children.

The participants of the seminar, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa tsenoli, and the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Sylvia Lucas, included the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Mr Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, and representatives from the South African National AIDS Council (Sanac) Men’s Sector, as well as non-profit men’s organisation, Takuwani Riime

In his opening address, Mr Tsenoli told men and women that the aim of the seminar was to raise awareness, identify gaps, recognise the harm of patriarchy, identify opportunity for action, and invite additional actors in the fight against gender-based violence.

Mr Tsenoli said the period ahead, the December holidays, expose women and children to the violence of alcohol and drugs. The rampant commercialisation of these holidays creates huge pressure on families, often leading to tragic consequences. We are challenged to provide creative alternatives to alcohol and drug-based recreation,” said Mr Tsenoli.

He added that the work of the Men’s Sector – Stakeholder Engagement would feed well into the usual “16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children” (25 November to 10 December).

The NCOP Deputy Chairperson, Ms Sylvia Lucas, said the state or government alone, or one organisation, cannot eradicate or stop the scourge of gender-based violence, and emphasised that “it requires all forces of society”.

“We must actively forge a front of a broad range of women’s formations and organisations at the forefront of the struggle against patriarchy and gender-based violence. It means we must build effective, integrated planning and response systems for gender-based violence.

“While patriarchy is a distinct system, it does not exist on its own. It thrives on the basic economic-political system under which it exists, becoming a way of life for all,” said Ms Lucas.

She also called on society to “decolonise our thinking, deconstruct the idea of patriarchy and begin to reconstruct a new way of thinking about gender equality as a norm”.

“These struggles must strengthen women so they do not see themselves simply as victims, but instead to see themselves as part of the revolutionary motive forces to transform gender relations in our country,” she said.

She said the state must strengthen the functionality of the intergovernmental system and work with civil society organisations and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to draw from their experiences and expertise in order to deal with and arrest gender-based violence, adding that there is a “need for a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on all aspects which propel gender-based violence – and we must stop sectorial attitudes”.

Delivering a message of support at the summit, the Chairperson of Parliament’s Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, Ms Nkhensani Bilankulu, urged all men to stand up and dispel myths and practices perpetrated against women under the guise of religion and culture.

She said the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus has identified the fight against gender-based violence as a priority focus area for the sixth term of Parliament.

“As part of our activities, we will lobby and advocate for successful implementation of the Declaration of the Presidential Summit against gender-based violence and femicide,” she said.

The Secretary-General of Sanac Men’s Sector, Archbishop Mbulelo Dyasi, said: We are here today to rearrange and consolidate our efforts. We are in a crisis and this meeting will give us direction, and we want to brief the nation that as men of South Africa, we are ready to stop the violence against women and children.”

By Sakhile Mokoena
8 November 2019