/ 13 November 2012

‘Act like a man’ takes on new meaning

Sonke’s One Man Can campaign mobilizes men to prevent gender-based violence
Sonke’s One Man Can campaign mobilizes men to prevent gender-based violence


Civil Society Award

Sonke Gender Justice Network

Iwan Pienaar

One Man Can is a powerful campaign started by the Sonke Gender Justice Network, a South African-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that works across Africa to strengthen government, civil society and citizen capacity.

Sonke has an expanding presence in Africa and a growing international profile through its involvement with the United Nations and other international networks and affiliates.

The One Man Can campaign is designed to mobilise men and boys to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS in their communities.

"The campaign was launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2006 to mark the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women campaign and then a few days later in Geneva at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' headquarters," says Angelica Pino, resource mobilisation co-ordinator at Sonke.

The campaign encourages men to work with one another and with women to take action, build a movement, demand justice, claim their democratic rights and change the world.

"The workshop activities and materials of the campaign help men to take action in their own lives and in their communities to promote healthy relationships based on a commitment to gender equality and healthy models of masculinity," says Pino.

Central to the successful implementation of One Man Can is the belief that community-based organisations are best placed to identify the particular needs of the communities they serve and adapt ­public awareness initiatives on gender-based violence and HIV that resonate with their constituency.

The campaign has been implemented in South Africa's nine provinces and is being rolled out in a number of other countries, including Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi.

"To maintain sustainability, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of Sonke's partner organisations to carry forward the approach and methodology independently," says Pino.

One of the goals of the campaign is to build the capacity of local civil society groups to implement the programme and initiate their own One Man Can initiatives at a local level.

Sonke also runs a Refugee Health and Rights Project, which recognises that refugee and migrant populations are particularly vulnerable to violence and HIV. Quite often, these groups have reduced access to information and services.

"Refugees have experienced discrimination in South Africa for many years and in all areas of their lives, be it in clinics, schools, workplaces, when using public transport or by the police," says Jean-Marie Nkurunziza, Cape Town co-ordinator of the project.

To combat this, the project promotes healthy behaviour among young men and adults, with a strong focus on HIV. Sonke wants to provide refugees and migrants with HIV prevention messages that stress risk awareness, delaying the onset of sexual relationships, consent versus coercion, sexual violence and the correct use of condoms, to name a few.

Because of these and other issues, Sonke addresses masculine norms and behaviours through the One Man Can workshops that engage with hard-to-reach young and adult men in refugee communities.

The NGO combines community education with efforts to lobby governments and link refugees to organisations that help them access their social, legal and health rights.

Women's rights get a boost


Civil Society Award

Namibian Women's Lobby

Iwan Pienaar

When Maria da Conceicao Lourence was invited to be a panelist on peace building at the United Nations general assembly in 2000, little did she realise how much her life would change.

During the assembly, a young woman told how rebels abducted her when she was 14 and trained her to kill. When she was 19, non-governmental organisation International Alert rescued her and she started focusing on becoming a doctor.

Da Conceicao Lourence was moved to establish the Namibian Women's Lobby. The group was formed to promote the equal representation and participation of women in bodies and institutions that make decisions, without discriminating on the basis of race, colour, religion or disability. This is done through advocacy, lobbying and building capacity for women in Namibia.

Its focus areas include the feminisation of poverty and unemployment, the imbalance of power between women and men in all fields of society, violence against women, and discriminatory laws and practices.

"We wanted to lobby for so many things. From human rights issues to gender based issues, the scale of the challenge was enormous. I was a ­politician before and had my experience to fall back on, but finding funding proved to be very difficult," she says.

Da Conceicao Lourence funded the group out of her own pocket for the first six years.

However, she persevered and, thanks to the extensive networks she built up as a politician, she was able to get the support of the Namibian Ministry of Trade and Industry, the town council of Otavi where she was staying, the UN and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Her networking extended to fundraising for the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children. She is in the process of building a soup kitchen and an old age home in Otavi.

"My background enabled me to meet many people across sectors and engage with a host of influential campaigners to build support for the Namibian Women's Lobby group," she says.

The situation for women in Namibia has improved on a few levels, most notably in politics, with more women starting to become involved. But Da Conceicao Lourence is quick to point out that there are still many challenges for women to overcome in the country.

"One of the most pressing concerns is violence against women. A particularly sensitive issue is how ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends return to murder the women who once filled such a key role in their lives," she says.

Her next target is to get a referendum on reinstating the death penalty in the country. She admits the idea does evoke a lot of emotion, but says it is necessary to address it given the number of violent crimes that take place against women in Namibia.