1000 Women Trust, Ruben Richards Foundation lead campaign to drive behavioral change amongst men in Western Cape

CAPE TOWN. – A new initiative in the Matzikama and Cederberg municipalities of the Western Cape to engage men and boys through a social mobilisation campaign to confront and prevent the scourge of rape culture and gender-based violence, is taking shape.

The women-led organization 1000 Women Trust and the Ruben Richards Foundation will partner with the department of social development to target community and religious leaders in these communities and drive behavioral change to address South Africa’s second pandemic, gender-based violence.

“1000 Women Trust plans to roll out an anti-bullying toolkit in schools and communities of the Matzikama and Cederberg Municipality. This toolkit has already reached more than 3000 teachers and parents all over South Africa in the past four years. Recently, officials from the department of education in Mpumalanga requested us to roll out this program in schools in that province,” said Tina Thiart, founder member of 1000 Women Trust.

“In November 2020 we launched a nationwide #MakeTime-campaign focusing on fathers and imploring parents to pledge time every month to share values with their sons (from age seven to nineteen) about non-violence, respect, and gender equality in their relationship with women and girls. We will also role out the #MakeTime-initiative in Matzikama, the Cederberg Municipality, and in Molsvlei,” added Thiart.

Dr. Ruben Richards, the founder of the Ruben Richards Foundation, said he developed a special curriculum to deal with gender-based violence but from a male perspective. The title of the curriculum is masculinity and the subtitle is called conversations about gender equality.

“We will roll out this program simply because gender-based violence is the next pandemic and it is destroying the country. Our contribution as a foundation would be restoration and healing,” Dr. Richards said.

“In a recent survey, it was revealed that 51 % of women in South Africa said they experienced gender-based violence, while 76 % of the men admitted that they have perpetrated gender-based violence.

“In the first three weeks of the hard lockdown, the gender-based violence and femicide command centre recorded 120 000 calls from women who suffered gender-based violence.

“These statistics underline the fact that we have a problem in South Africa,” said Dr. Richards.

A contribution to the solution must focus on men.

It is alleged that the majority of South African men have abused women at some stage, and it is something in the SA male identity that has caused this.

“We must realize what has shaped our identity. Identity is the point of access to understand gender-based violence.

“Firstly we must unpack the historical component and understand where we come from in terms of our identity. Secondly, we must determine at what point did we become aware of our male identity.

“We take men on a journey and get them to open up about their identity.

“In our third module, we talk about violence because the male identity is often linked to violence. And we determine where the violence comes from.

“In module four, we discuss the journey of change and what it means.

“The last module is about reconstructing the male identity based on the insights gained from earlier modules.

“Ultimately it is about building a new culture of human rights and respect, but if we don’t break down the history of gender-based violence and identity, the male will not change,” Dr. Richard says.

The department of social development has asked Dr. Richards to run a master class and train their social workers on his curriculum and his approach.

“My focus will be on influencing religious and community leaders as they hold the trust of the community,” Dr. Richards added.

The work of 1000 Women Trust and the Ruben Richards Foundation is part of the theme of the Men Championing Change program from the department of social development to target social and behavioral change amongst men and boys with regards to gender-based violence and rape and to also address the social and structural drivers of HIV, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.

For more information, contact Tina Thiart on WhatsApp on 0732079079 or Dr. Ruben Richards on 0824980608.

The #MakeTime-campaign can be accessed on the web www.maketime.org.za and the anti-bullying toolkit on www.bullying.co.za.

The Ruben Richards Foundation can be accessed on www.rrf.org.za