I really didn’t want to go to initiation school because I was scared. I heard that some people didn’t make it because the people running some of the schools aren’t skilled.
For a whole week before I went, I was stressed about it, thinking about the circumcision and that there’d be no real medicine to ease the pain.
But I thought about it again and realised that this is my culture and, for me to be a man, I needed to go – whether I liked it or not. I realised that to get the respect I deserve, I needed to go.
So when I told my mom that I was ready, she was happy.
But when I came back, she was even more happy. Everybody was rejoicing. I was glad to see that my family was so happy. Also, I was relieved. I felt like I had faced the scariest process, telling myself: “You can do this.”
Before I went to the initiation school, I was always told things like: “Ah, wena, you’re a small boy.” But on that day, I felt so proud because I knew I could now say: “Ah, me, I’m a man.”
That day, they slaughtered two cows, one for me to share with friends who were with me at initiation school. We cooked that meat on a fire in our yard. As we sat around that fire, I told my friends: “Now we are men, no longer teenagers.”
I feel like the person I was before, that boy, has changed. Even the way I walked. Now, when my older relatives are discussing an important issue, I am there. They include me in those discussions. – Themba Manda (20), as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian.