The role of men important in ending GBVF – President Ramaphosa

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the role of men as an increasingly influential force in making the Convention to End Violence Against Women and Girls a tangible achievement throughout Africa.

 The President was delivering remarks at the 3rd African Union Men's Conference on Positive Masculinity, held in Pretoria on Tuesday. 

The conference is taking place in the week that the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence commences across the globe. 

“Let us build on the gains of the first two conferences to birth a new Africa that affirms the human dignity, equality and worth of every African woman and girl. Let us leave no man and boy behind in this journey.

 “Together, as an expanding circle of champions, we will make the Convention to End Violence Against Women and Girls a reality in our beloved Africa,” the President said. 

The President said what makes this conference exceptional is that the main focus is on the role of men and boys in bringing about a world free of gender-based violence.

“We are here because we know that men and boys must be at the forefront of change. We are here because we know there is an alternative to a society, a continent and a world where women are oppressed, discriminated against and their rights suppressed. 

“We seek a world in which every African man, woman and child can live in true freedom and equality with their rights respected, upheld and advanced. We know that such a world is within our reach if we focus on the prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” he said. 

President Ramaphosa emphasised that we cannot realise a society free of gender-based violence without critically interrogating the assumptions around patriarchy, male chauvinism and sexism. 

It is these assumptions, he said, that lead young men and boys to believe that women are property; that they are worth less than a man, and that they are deserving of ill-treatment.

“This is a conversation that men need to have. Men are in the main the perpetrators of violence against women and girls. At the same time, it is men who have the power to bring about the change we so sorely need.

“The unity, self-reliance, self-determination, freedom, progress and prosperity we collectively strive towards under the AU’s Agenda 2063 are being undermined by gender-based violence,” he said. 

The President said such violence is eroding our gains, stunting our continent’s development and leaving more than half of Africa’s population in a state of anxiety and fear.

He said this conference is about promoting positive masculinity as well as challenging traditional stereotypes with being a man. 

He said it involves redefining the norms and expectations placed on men. 

The President highlighted that positive masculinity encourages men to embrace qualities such as empathy, vulnerability, emotional intelligence and respect for diversity.

Earlier this year, the President convened the Presidential Young Men and Boys’ Indaba in Soweto in Johannesburg.

He had the opportunity to talk with a group of young men who see themselves as changemakers in the fight against gender-based violence.

“These young men face a lot of pressures that affect their attitudes to women and girls. These include the lack of positive male role models, absentee fathers, vulnerability to recruitment by criminals, pressure to drop out of school and earn a living, and pressure to become sexually active before they are ready to.

“These young men, who exhibit or seek to learn positive masculinity, are tired of being seen as the problem, when they want to be part of the solution. 

“This is why it is so important that a conference such as this brings us together to look at how we can create more spaces for young men and boys to engage among their peers without fear of judgment,” he said. 

The President highlighted that South Africa has a number of initiatives, programmes and dialogues that are elevating the importance of positive masculinity as part of the fight against gender-based violence.

These programmes are run among athletes and artists, workers and students. They are often implemented in partnership with business, unions and other social partners.

“What these programmes show is that while men are the main perpetrators of violence against women and children, men can also be at the forefront of bringing about a new society that respects the equal rights of women and girls. This has been recognised across the African continent.

“This conference is now in its third year. The AU Circle of Champions has been established, and work is underway towards an African Convention to End Violence Against Women and Girls,” the President said. 

He told delegates that this conference is an opportunity to consolidate political commitment, accelerate collective efforts and define men’s contribution to ending violence against women and girls. 

As South Africa, working with fellow leaders on the continent, the President stressed the importance of an all-of-society approach that brings together business, labour, government and civil society to promote positive masculinity. 

He said this enables us to develop a common vision and roadmap, and build structures throughout society. 

The President further emphasised that there is a need to step up the prevention agenda. 

He said the Circle of Champions must continue to inspire high-level leadership in ending violence against women and girls. 

He called for the renewed support for the AU Commission in ensuring the Maputo Protocol Scorecard and Index for the realisation of women’s rights is popularised and implemented. 

“As we move ahead in negotiating an African Convention on Ending Violence against Women and Girls, we must ensure there is accountability through monitoring and evaluating progress in meeting the commitments of the Kinshasa Declaration. 

“Lastly, we have to address structural inequality by broadening women’s access to resources, jobs and opportunities, all the while introducing laws, policies and programmes that advance women’s economic empowerment,” he said. 

The President said that he has great expectations of this conference. 

“We must be creative, innovative and resolute when it comes to the design and implementation of dialogue, safe spaces and other initiatives that enable men and boys to become more involved in this effort.  

“Let us learn from each other and share best practice. Let us understand how what works in one context could be adapted to work in another. Let us look at how we can fund this work in an economically constrained environment. 

“There is one thing on which we agree: positive masculinity can and must be harnessed as a powerful force for good,” he said. 

The President concluded that ending violence against women and girls everywhere is a collective responsibility as society, but when it comes to the participation of men, the onus is even greater. 

“We owe it to the women and girls of our continent to be better men, better fathers, better caregivers, better partners and better sons,” he said. -