Using music to address societal issues

Friday, March 13, 2020
Selunathi Ntsika Dontsa.

In an era where the protection of women and the girl child is a constant goal to reach, one cannot help but wonder what is being done to groom a generation of young men who will not only respect, but protect the women of our country. Over the years, South Africa has seen an increase in the scourge of violence against women and children.

This scourge has been of such concern that President Cyril Ramaphosa in his the State of the Nation Address (SONA) said the Domestic Violence Act would be amended to better protect victims in violent domestic relationships.

He also said that the Sexual Offences Act will broaden the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders.

In addition, the 2020 February Budget Speech also allocated R15 million for the establishment of a National Council to combat gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide over the next three years, among others.

However, these interventions have been geared at women and young girls in what may sometime be seen to reinforce the construed societal notion that men don’t cry nor need help.

It is easy for one to wonder what is being done to raise a generation of young men who will not become perpetrators of femicide and crimes against women.

In the Eastern Cape, with the help of the Department of Social Development (DSD), a talented young man, with a gift for music, is playing his role in ensuring that the spotlight is also placed on the plight of the boy child.

Through his song Bambelela, Selunathi Ntsika Dontsa, is helping boys and young men to not only acknowledge the challenges they face, but to speak openly about them. Bambelela means to “hang in there” in isiNguni.

The 20-year-old Dontsa is using his own difficult childhood, riddled with domestic violence and substance abuse, to encourage others to rise above their circumstances.

The song also reflects on the challenges and frustrations experienced by young men.

 “I wanted to share my own story to get people to understand that it is okay to reflect on who you are and where you come from. It is okay to have problems and have a past that might trouble you at times. The idea is that the journey is not really over until you reach the finish line. The message I want to spread is that life is not easy,” he said.

Through the song and the DSD’s Boys’ Assembly, Dontsa is appealing to his peers to understand that it is okay to reflect on who they are, and where they come from.

The Boys’ Assembly initiative aims to mobilise young men to be part of the solution in transforming existing gender imbalances, and is the brainchild of the DSD, in partnership with the South African National Aids Council (SANAC).

Simultaneously, the initiative also aims to put an end to the spread of HIV and gender-based violence (GBV).

The assembly gives boys, aged between 14 and 24years, an opportunity to engage in holistic dialogues that interrogate issues that affect them and the communities they represent.

Social Development Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, who is among the leaders championing positive change, notes that while the focus primarily seems to be on the girl child, the department has realised the importance of paying attention to the boy child as well.

She warned that by excluding the boy child, boys will grow up   with low self-esteem, in total opposite to the girl child, armed with sufficient self-esteem.

 “That’s why we established the assemblies, as part of men and boys championing change. We call it an investment because we expect to reap the results. Come 2030, we know the investment in boys is going to give us a different calibre of men,” she said.

In upscaling Boys’ Assemblies which have been held in several provinces, the department needed to find material that boys resonate with.

The song she said, is something that young men can relate to.

Bogopane-Zulu urged young men to internalise the message of the song.

 “Our boys are angry because they feel they are fatherless, they feel they are not being listened to and their mothers are denying them the opportunity to see their fathers. They are angry because their fathers are not responsible. When we send a message through a song, we believe that boys are going to hear the message much quicker,” she said.

Having struggled with depression himself, Dontsa is urging young people to seek help and not to bottle things up.

“Talking about issues is an important part of the healing process, and there are trained professionals out there who are ready to help you through tough times.

“I want to encourage them to continue to work towards achieving their dreams and to never stop believing that they can pull themselves out of their situations. To me, Bambelela means to keep strong and to keep on keeping on,” he said.

The DSD is hopeful that the Boys’ Assembly will lead to a change of behaviour.

“We are going to have men that are going to be conscious of their behaviour. We are going to have men that are conscious of what they are doing and are willing to be held accountable. We are also going to have men that respect women, and that’s why we actually invest in a boy child. We know that the Women Ministry [Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities] has to invest in a girl child,” said the Deputy Minister.

Just like every waltz or the much pacier tango requires a partnership between a man and a woman, regardless of whichever age, the fight against GBV requires the same kind of commitment from all citizens. -