Learning Journey: Why I joined GL

Date: August 1, 2016
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I have always struggled with the question of inequality in our society. I have also detested any form of injustice whenever it occurred. I was raised in a community that was exposed to both inequality, injustice and violence. This violence was perpetuated by men against men, women and children in the community I lived in. The inequality and injustice were in fact the face of the brutal system of apartheid which were declared a crime against humanity by the whole world. Growing up under such a system made me realise that inequality, injustice and violence should never be tolerated in a society.

Mbuyiselo BothaThe liberation movement taught me not to accept or condone any form of inequality whenever it occurred. For more than 25 years I have dedicated my life to eradicating violence against women in our country as my commitment towards creating a society that rejected all forms of oppression whatever they are, whenever they occur. It is this commitment that led me and other men in South Africa to form the South African Men’s Forum, whose purpose was to engage, mobilise and galvanise men as allies in the fight against gender violence. We believed then and we still do that men have a stake in ensuring that they hold other men responsible and accountable for their violent actions.

We were convinced that men cannot fold their arms when women are violated. We believe that eradicating inequality, injustice and all forms of violence is a man’s business and therefore all of us as men should speak with one voice that no violence will be perpetuated in our name, that no culture and/or religion will be used in our name to denigrate, disrespect and dehumanise women.

We further believe that men will speak against all forms of oppression wherever they are, be it in the workplace, at church and/or parliament. Men will not connive or condone any sexist remarks, neither will they be part of any group that does not support the ethos of gender equality and transformation. It is against this background that I joined GL as both a volunteer in its programmes and a board member, believing in the values that this organisation has believed in for the last 15 years.

GL has given me an opportunity as a person to learn at a practical level what violence does to women in Africa as a whole. My involvement with GL has enriched my understanding of the value that women’s leadership brings to an organisation. GL has enabled me to play my part in mobilising other men to realise a role that we can play in supporting women’s endeavours in liberating themselves. It has further given me an opportunity to stand back and not yield to the temptation of taking a lead role as a man in the gender struggle. It has taught me the value of being humble as a man when one works in the gender equality struggle. The lesson for me is that as a man, this is a space that I should not contemplate or countermand taking a lead role because it is an invited space and a privileged one. It taught me what humility is all about.

Working with a group of dedicated, committed people towards the total emancipation of women has been a great privilege and more importantly a huge learning experience for me personally.

GL has exposed me to the realities of women’s struggles against poverty, illiteracy, injustice, violence and the ravages of HIV and AIDS. It has taught me the importance of working with women at all levels in our society, especially those found in the rural areas, whose struggles adversely impact and affect their children.

Written by Mbuyiselo Botha, GL Board Member and men-for-change activist