The Department of Student Counselling and Health, HIV/AIDS Centre at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted a Men’s webinar looking at The Role of Men in Society, During and Beyond COVID-19 on Microsoft Teams, on Wednesday, 21 October 2020.
Facilitating the webinar was the Director: Advancement and Alumni Relations at DUT, Zwakele Ngubane, who said this is an opportune moment to get together and have discussions to see how they can come up with possible solutions to fight Gender-Based Violence (GBV), seen to be perpetuated by men.
Welcoming the guests to the men’s dialogue was Dr Naseem Haniff, Director: Student Counselling and Health. She said that the men’s dialogue carries an important topic, one that people should be fiercely engaging with as long as there are still issues of gender inequality in South Africa.
“The COVID-19 pandemic served to highlight the different roles that men and women are still expected to play in our society. COVID-19 is also forcing people, men and women alike to reflect upon our humanness, that our lives are fragile, that we are mutually interdependent upon each other. It has shown us that no-one is invincible. We found out that men find it difficult to accept that they need help. It is seen as manly to do so, this places them at a higher risk of mental health problems,” said Dr Haniff.
The irony, she said is that primarily it is men’s voices that are dominating government and societal responses to COVID-19 but hopes such discussions will help shift harmful gender norms in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The HIV/AIDS Centre Manager, Thobile Zulu said the purpose of the webinar is to involve men in finding the solutions of GBV since they are the main perpetrators.
“If we are leaving men behind, we are still going to have the same problems all over again. We are involving men in the solutions to end GBV and to also to start those conversations with young men, challenging the patriarchal system which is still so entrenched in our society. The way to move forward is to build a nation free of GBV and a society where a life of a woman matters and is valued. We know that no-one is born violent, it is a learned behaviour. It is possible to unlearn that behaviour through the conversations such as these,” said Zulu.
SRC Project Officer, Gugulethu Hadebe, who delivered a message of support, said the role of men in the society is very important as they are the solution to end GBV. She said this is a good initiative to tag men along, to help better the nation.
The guest speaker was DUT’s Director of Special Projects, Dr David Mohale who delivered a powerful presentation, aiming to lead the men to the right direction.
Dr Mohale said the role of men in society has to be consistent irrespective of what immaterial conditions.
“We need to start from the beginning in order to understand what society is. A family is a basic organising institution of society. We do have other institutions such as education comprising of primary school, high school and university. We also have media and government as other constitutive institutions of society. My approach in dealing with complex societal problems has always been that we deal with problems bottom up, instead of top down. The context of family is very important before we make sense of what the general issues are,” said Dr Mohale.
In addressing the topic, he made reference to the Bible: Genesis 45 verse 3 where Joseph asked his brothers, “Is my father still alive?”
He said the people need to understand the question relative to the what ought to be the role of men in the family and broadly in the society.
“In terms of the role the man is expected to play, do we think that he is acting consistently with the that kind of expectation. In order to deal with current problems of GBV and men being the perpetrators of these crimes against women and children, I propose that men stand out and say as for me and my house, my community, my nation we will commit to uprooting GBV. As men we need to declare that we are disgusted by anything that is inconsistent with human dignity,” said Dr Mohale.
Furthermore, he said a man has got to be the provider of his family, a strong protector, a truthful leader, a respectable authority and an intimate friend.
Pictured: Dr David Mohale, DUT’s Director of Special Projects.