On the 27th of February, a group of young men from Soweto who are part of the Soweto Young Men United (SYMU),hosted discussions in Pimville in a bid to get to the root cause of gender-based violence (GBV).
The idea to start the organisation began last year after the brutal attacks of women in South Africa. SYMU Public Relations Officer, Kgomotso Mahlangu Mahlangu said they realized that marches would raise awareness but would not tackle the root cause of the problem.
The first Thezi Session took place on June 14 last year in Soweto, when they invited men to help better one another. This year’s Thezi Session was themed under “Help Us Help Ourselves”. Women who attended the event, raised issues such as the sense of entitlement that men have; using alcohol to deal with issues; lying and not being able to communicate. Activists called on women to empower themselves with education so they can earn their own living.
“The biggest goal of these Thezi sessions is to educate ourselves and we want to contribute in wholly changing men. If there is one broken man who attends these sessions and by the end of it changes, to us that is an achievement. We plan to take these conversations to taverns, bars and clubs where young men gather to enjoy their beer,” explained Mahlangu.
He said previous sessions revealed what triggers men to kill and physically abuse women. Among the issues was absent fathers and the lack of positive role models who can mentor boys to be men.
“One of the issues raised was not having a father figure who mentors and guides boys into manhood. Men will point out that most of the things they learn are from the streets and they think that is the way things are done. They discover too late that what they know is not right. Secondly, the fact that many young men are not working is an issue. When a girlfriend is working they feel a woman has a louder voice,”added Mahlangu.
According SYMU Public Relations Officer, Kgomotso Mahlangu said their aim was to go to every neighbourhood in Soweto to talk to men about the scourge of gender-based violence. In its fourth session, SYMU invited women for the first time, in the hope that they will bring a different perspective to the conversation.
“We normally have monthly sessions and we go to different areas around Soweto. Today, we have invited women to give us ways to help us so that we can help ourselves. We acknowledge that we [men] have a problem and we need help. In trying to better ourselves, we need women to assist us,” said Mahlangu.
SYMU fourth session female participant,Kedibone Mphethi from Orlando West, said: “Based on my experiences, men have a sense of entitlement over women. They act as if they own a woman or they are some sort of property that belongs to them. They lack the emotional intelligence and maturity to engage in matters”.
Matshepo Mojelele who is part of the Khumoetsile Development Club in Meadowlands, praised SYMU for starting the conversations in the community. Mojelele, who owns a football club, said she has been badly treated as a woman in soccer.
“I am willing to assist men in bettering themselves. I work with young boys and I’m just giving them love – that is why this is close to my heart. It is better if they say it themselves that they need help. Men use violence to solve problems. There are men who believe that to show a woman that you love her you must beat her,” said Mojelele.