Allowing Men to Care

Article Date

15 March 2012

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

In South Africa, the end of apartheid in 1994 affected many things, including gender relations. Many men support government efforts to achieve the vision of a gender-equitable society as articulated in South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, men still face widespread pressures to express their manhood in more traditional ways, such as authority figures in relationships with their wives and children. While such traditional male norms give men greater decision-making power, they also limit who they are and what they can do. Many men fear being mocked—by men and women—if they enter the kitchen, care for their children or make decisions jointly with their wives. Some fear being seen as weak if they go to a health clinic because they are sick. They may feel pressure to have many sexual partners. And a substantial number are encouraged—by the examples of men around them and by society’s failure to fully implement laws on domestic and sexual violence—to abuse women and children. Harmful male behavior is interlinked with HIV risk and sexual and gender-based violence. But more men are rejecting the stereotypes of manhood in South Africa and are stepping forward to challenge gender roles that compromise their own health and well-being and that of their partners and their families.

Sonke Gender Justice Network created the Fatherhood and Child Security project to mobilize men to play an active role in changing traditional norms that are harmful to men, women and children. Among various activities, the program has an innovative approach to changing norms and behaviors through digital storytelling, which uses the media to give adults, youth, and children an opportunity to share their experiences with violence and HIV. Read the full case study, “Allowing Men to Care: Fatherhood Project in South Africa,” to learn how the organization designed a program to reduce HIV transmission and address related problems, such as gender-based violence, women’s overwhelming burden of care and the preponderance of children in need of care and support.