Taking the bull by the horn

Taking the bull by the horn

Date: November 22, 2011
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Culture modification to contribute to fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic

Traditional and religious leaders have committed to reform customs, cultural practices and values that perpetuate HIV infections and gender-based violence (GBV) within the Southern and Eastern African regions.

Under the theme ‘Leaders taking the bull by the horn,’ traditional leaders that attended the Southern Africa AIDS Information Dissemination Trust (SAFAIDS) Regional Summit, Turning the Tide on Gender Based Violence, HIV and Culture in Southern Africa observed that it is important to modify negative tenants of customs, cultural practices and valuesthat exacerbate thespread of HIV and GBV such as wife inheritance. On the flip-side positive aspects of customs, cultural practices and values should be used to fight HIV and GBV.

The over 150 participants that attended the Summit held in Harare Zimbabwe discussed issues related to leadership, HIV prevention and culture as well as exchanged experiences on what they are doing to bring about change in their communities .

Chief Sokhaya Fano Mdluli from Swaziland said that he uses the customs and culture practiced in his area to mobilise men to discuss and introduce ‘matters of the heart’ including HIV and GBV.

“In my culture men come to cultivate my garden and we take advantage of such occasions to discuss important issues including HIV and GBV” he said.

“Women come to weed and they sing songs that communicate to me problems they are facing in the village. This way, I get to know their problems and address them,” he added.

Chief Seke of Zimbabwe concurred. “Fostering positive community values has enabled his subjects to access information of HIV and AIDS. “At the moment it is (possibly) only five % of the community that lacks awareness of HIV prevention methods,” he said.

However, participants wanted to know how the traditional leaders were dealing with the issue of African youth copying western culture. One of the participants posed the question – “There is a conflict between our culture and the western culture, how do we harmonise this?”

The Summit lamented the fact that the family unit is becoming weaker, yet this used to be central to the way African communities lived. Parents even now ‘outsource’ their role of bringing up children to outsiders like household helpers, schools and the church.Hence they do not necessarily pass on the value system that could help prevent HIV and AIDS and help their children live peacefully free from gender based violence.

Headman Richman Rangwani of Zimbabwe said there was a need for improved working relationship between traditional leaders, healers and the community to address the twin pandemic of HIV and AIDS and the link with Gender Based Violence.

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