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uMphithi Men's Network Campaign

The UMphithi Men's Network has joined hands with the Department of Health and LoveLive in a campaign against the ‘sugar daddy’ syndrome. The march took place on the 23 October from the Pietermaritzburg Taxi complex to the city hall.

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‘Reclaim the night’ in Durban

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 ‘’Reclaim the night’ is an international protest movement and action against rape and sexual violence in which women demand the right to move freely in their cities and communities during the day and at night without the threat of rape and sexual violence.

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Don't Bury The Pain - Witness Article

“MEN are not like women, they have not been given good tools to communicate and to offer comfort,” says gender activist Thulani Mthalane, talking about how his organisation is helping men — and women.

See the original article in The Witness 

Thulani Mthalane 02 image lowres

Mthalane has a huge challenge — changing the perceptions of men about gender and the roles they play. This in KwaZulu-Natal, a province where tradition runs deep and violence against women is “normal”.

His job as a facilitator with Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa) means he has seen many sides to the gender game, although he deals specifically with gender, HIV and men’s issues.

Dealing with men and their role in society is a sensitive subject that has many cultural, religious and practical implications. Mthalane says men in the modern world have become lost and many are conflicted about where they stand in a society that has left them without fathers and other role models. Many men are in emotional pain and their bad behaviour can sometimes be attributed to that.

“Since childhood they are taught to be strong and brave and deny emotions. They bury all that pain and lash out.”

Mthalane has many roles, but one of the most important is to open discussions or dialogues with groups of men, young and old, from areas in and around Pietermaritzburg, including Kwashange, Nxamalala, France and Mpophomeni. The men are invited through various community networks to come and give their opinions on various gender-related topics.

Mthalane says Pacsa’s dialogue process is specifically designed to allow many people to participate and speak on an issue and for the solutions to arise from the community.

“In a traditional workshop, the seating is church-like, where a speaker is higher on a stage in the front and everyone else listening. When it comes to question time everyone is quiet. But in a dialogue you get everyone to raise the issues that they want to speak about. Only later do you introduce your speaker who suggests solutions and they need to be discussed.

“In this way, the participants feel that the issues come from them and the solutions are also part of their process. They do not want a foreign concept imposed on them.”

Mthalane has sometimes invited respected traditional leaders to discuss old tribal values. The men acknowledge that these practices had their place and have been corrupted.

“In the beginning, gender issues were seen by men as being foreign, something imposed on them. But when we discuss these things in a cultural context, we can see that relationships and respect between men and women have gone off course,” said Mthalane.

“In Zulu culture, a man would introduce his wife to his father’s kraal and his father would treat her with respect and protect her as if she were his own wife.”

Mthalane said in the old days if there was any issue of domestic violence in a marriage, the induna (chief) would be called to mediate and the guilty husband would have to pay a fine, or the wife would be punished if she was the cause of the trouble.

Tribal ties have weakened, and modern values are causing conflicts between generations. Mthalane says that having all-male discussion groups allows the men to speak openly about their frustrations and actions.

He says they have spoken about things like ukuthwala — an old cultural practice where a man from a village would get his friends to help him abduct a girl he wished to marry. It was usually a prelude to lobola negotiations.

This cultural practice has become corrupted and has now become a crime where a gang kidnaps a girl and gang rapes her. They have no intentions but to abuse her sexually.

“The perpetrators realise this is wrong and most of them know it has nothing to do with the old custom, but they will try to justify their actions.”

In some of the dialogues, Mthalane has found the issue of male rape has arisen, which he finds deeply disturbing. “I asked myself: Is this a new thing,? Why is it happening so much?” He believes it stems from the fact that more men are able to speak about it and possibly those who were abused in the past as children are now the perpetrators in the cycle of abuse.

“It is a cultural taboo. Boys were probably raped and they did not say anything. Now they are encouraged to speak about it, but they still feel ashamed and who can they speak to? Those who are damaged are not only physically damaged but the scars are much deeper.”

Mthalane says recently they heard an older boy was raping a younger boy, but no one in his family had reported it to the police. Pacsa laid a charge with the police and as soon as they did this, several other boys came forward to complain that they had also been victims.

Mthalane says the culture of silence is not helping victims. It only helps the perpetrators of the crime. “These abusers are terrible. But those who remain silent are just as guilty.”

Mthalane has heard many horror stories about men and what they do, and yet he cannot give up on his sex. He says he relies on compassion and tries to understand what they have been through.

Mthalane believes in a process known as the Healing Journey. “Many of the men who resort to violence, through drinking and angry behaviour, are often hiding a deep emotional pain.”

A three-day Healing Journey offers participants a chance to deal with repressed memories, to heal them and to move forward. Mthalane says most men are confused when they are asked about a painful experience. “They don’t know how to respond. But when you ask if they can recall an embarrassing experience, then their issue usually comes up.”

The course encourages release, healing, grieving and growth. Mthalane says the work is rewarding as he has seen many men find enormous relief from letting childhood anger or pain go. “You can see they look different, as if they are free of something.”

He is also part of a campaign to get young men to sign up for voluntary circumcision. The procedure has been proven to be effective in reducing HIV transmission. Recently, Mthalane watched as a clinic nurse briefed the nervous recruits about the medical facts and he noticed that she had not given them any other information about sexual behaviour.

Mthalane took it upon himself to give them all a briefing about how this surgical intervention could be the first step in their new lives if they chose to have safe sex. He saw that while traditional circumcision in other cultures was associated with a transition to manhood, there needed to be something more than just a medical procedure to make this meaningful to them.

He is now working on the development of a new course called Spiritual Initiation based on a course in the United States by Richard Rohr. The Spiritual Initiation is a call for young men to evaluate their lives and to step up to the challenges of manhood. The journey involves a lot of self-evaluation, endurance and male bonding where other men share their experiences.

“I did the course myself and found it hugely life changing, and I wish to share it with other men to give them direction and focus. It is not only for Christians, but for men of all cultures who wish to discover what being a man is all about. We are born males because we have a penis, but what makes us real men is something very different.”

• To find out more about his work and the Pacsa dialogues, contact Thulani Mthalane at 033 342 0052.

He says they have spoken about things like ‘Ukuthwala’ — an old cultural practice where a man from a village would get his friends to help him abduct a girl he wished to marry. It was usually a prelude to lobola negotiations. The cultural practice has become corrupted and has now become a crime where a gang kidnaps a girl and rapes her.

uMphithi Men March Against Rape

The Department of Social Development in partnership with uMphithi Men's Network, marched against the rape of older women in Swayimane. Two women aged 84 and 72 were raped during July (Provincial Men's Month) and Women's Month. More then 5000 men and women gathered together, with MEC Weziwe Thusi, Commisioner Shozi (Chairperson of the Provincial Men's Forum) and uMphithi Secretary Simphiwe Buthelezi.

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