CHIETA and Primestars launch national boy-focused GBV intervention

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On Thursday 30 June, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA), Primestars and other stakeholders launched a ground-breaking national preventative gender-based violence (GBV) intervention that focuses on boys. The event, hosted at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, was attended by high-profile corporate and government executives, as well as GBV industry stakeholders who have given their support to the programme.

The programme — titled What about the Boys? — aims to tackle gender-based violence by working with 10 000 high school boys across the country. Created by youth-development programme facilitator Primestars, in conjunction with and co-funded by leading SETA CHIETA, the programme is designed to guide boys to break free from the rigid and often damaging stereotypes of traditional masculinity that contribute to GBV. 

“CHIETA is proud to support an innovative programme on GBV that focuses on raising a nation of good men. Education plays an essential role in the fight against GBV. As an authority on education, skills development and training, we are proud to collaborate with Primestars, Sasol, Seriti, Markham, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and other partners in driving a collaborative approach to GBV prevention. Supporting 10 000 young learners in schools across the country to educate them on new forms of progressive masculinity goes a long way to make a dent on the bleak picture of GBV in the country,” said CHIETA Chief Executive Officer, Yershen Pillay.

The programme is targeted at grades 8-12 boys from urban, township and rural schools from more than 100 schools this year. It includes an educational film and work booklet, as well as MENtorship, online learning, and other ongoing activities, built on pillars that include self-awareness, accountability, responsibility, empathy and compassion. 

Talking at the launch, Managing Director of Primestars Martin Sweet said: “It’s time to reinvent masculinity and What about the Boys? proposes a liberating paradigm shift teaching boys how to inhabit masculinity responsibly. It is designed to engage them to share emotions in healthy ways, accept and connect with others, stand up and speak out against bullying and inequality, and break free from rigid stereotypes.”

CHIETA and other participating stakeholders will provide male mentors to support boys through continued dialogue and guidance, and over time it is envisaged that learners will become future mentors. Primestars invites all South Africans to join us in RAISING A NATION OF GOOD MEN. 

For learners, teachers and schools looking for more information:  For organisations looking to make a difference and get involved, as well as media enquiries, please contact:  [email protected] 

About the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority

The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) is a statutory body that was established by the Skills Development Act in 1998. CHIETA’s role in the sector is to facilitate skills development and to ensure that skills needs are identified and addressed through various training initiatives in the chemical and manufacturing industries.

About Primestars

Primestars is no stranger to learner education, and over 14 years has created national youth empowerment programmes for high school learners in under-resourced schools. Using cinemas as “theatres of learning”, as well as digital platforms, 100 000 learners annually have benefitted from a range of educational content, including maths and science revision lessons, entrepreneurship and career guidance.

What about the boys?

If the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) is to be won, the focus must be on the source, not just the symptoms. This is how the Primestars What about the Boys? campaign aims to change society — by starting early in life to redefine masculinity and raise a nation of good men who will be allies in ensuring a safe and equal South Africa for all.

Primestars is a youth-focused development facilitator responsible for nation-building and life-changing empowerment initiatives such as Take A Girl Child to Work Day. Speaking at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange during the campaign launch, Primestars Managing Director Martin Sweet said that while a lot is being done to promote gender equality, the focus has been on girls and women — and boys are often left behind. 

“We believe that by addressing the underlying, interlinked causes of GBV, we can prevent it from happening in the first place,” he explained. “No movement has emerged to help boys navigate towards the full expression of their gender; boys are struggling and need more support and guidance than ever before.” 

Among boys, manifestations such as low grades, dropping out of school, bullying, substance abuse and addiction, unsafe sexual practices, physical and sexual violence, depression and suicide reveal an unhealthy relationship with their masculinity: “To be clear, masculinity is not something we can or should eradicate, and while it can be toxic and dangerous, it can also be associated with resilience and success. Boys need to learn to distinguish between the positive and negative traits of masculinity so that they can be empowered to be good men.” 

Sweet believes that the conventional set of rules for manhood are outdated and unhealthy: “It traps men in an emotional straightjacket and steers them towards isolation, selfishness, sexism and sometimes violence,” he explained. “It deadens their souls and when they act in horrific ways, when they hurt or beat or assault others in ways that go against the human spirit, we say ‘boys will be boys’. We are puzzled when boys act terribly, failing to realise that this is precisely the bar that we set for them.” 

What about the Boys? is a campaign that aims to raise the bar and proposes a liberating paradigm shift which teaches boys how to inhabit their masculinity responsibly, engaging them to share emotions in a healthy way. It will enable them to accept and connect to others, stand up and speak out about bullying and inequality, and break free of the rigid stereotypes that hold them back from achieving their full potential. 

By expanding a boy’s emotional intelligence and capacity for caring, collaboration, emotional expression and inclusivity, society can achieve gender equality and prevent violence. “We look forward to a day when the measure of a true man does not depend on the threat of his words, the intimidation of his stature, the power in his eyes, the lust of his thoughts or the violence in his fists,” said Sweet. 

The programme uses a multi-media platform at the intersection of education and entertainment to teach a different definition of boyhood and move past social stereotypes, in which sensitivity, kindness, authenticity, accountability, expression, respect, love and nurturing are no longer framed as “weak” or incompatible with being a “real” man.

“We need to foster a national movement freeing all genders from the rigid roles of the past, and create a society that recognises that when only one gender wins, we all lose,” Sweet said.

In her keynote speech, former Deputy President of South Africa and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said: “When we start with boys at a young age and conscientise them about equality, and that GBV is unacceptable, we are preparing them to be good partners and husbands, good employees and good citizens and members of society. There is room for all of us to show them how healthy partnerships should work. There is a privilege that patriarchy bestows on men, which is often not obvious. It is our responsibility to conscientise men and boys about standing up to this privilege.”

Changing society, one boy at a time 

What about the Boys? aims to tackle toxic masculinity and gender-based violence by working with 10 000 high school boys from more than 100 urban, township and rural schools countrywide to break away from rigid and damaging stereotypes and foster values like self-awareness, accountability, responsibility, empathy and compassion.  

As part of the Primestars campaign, an educational film has been developed that dispels the myths of boyhood while speaking to boys’ specific developmental needs, as well as the societal norms, peer pressure and cultural issues that they face. The film will debut in cinemas, rural schools and online on 14 August 2022. 

In conjunction with the film, Primestars is releasing a booklet described as “the blueprint and preeminent manual” to help guide boys on their journey to becoming good men. This journey will be further supported by a national MENtorship Movement that aims to expose boys to positive masculine role models in an enabling and safe environment. The MENtors, recruited from partnering organisations and companies, will facilitate guided dialogues after each film screening to challenge gender stereotypes, focus on emotional development and respond to any needs or concerns. 

By leveraging edutainment, the programme will follow an evidence-based approach to influence positive behavioural and social changes in the long-term. A pre-screening baseline assessment will be conducted, coupled by a post-engagement assessment to measure changes in attitudes and behaviours. This includes an accountability loop for change, through the development of a #DoBetter pledge to be personally signed by each boy who participates. 

Finally, a digital platform will encourage and enhance the ongoing engagement and support provided to participating boys, which will contribute to the sustainability and impact of the programme. This will include talks, workshops and networking opportunities with MENtors.

A safe and equitable South Africa starts with us  

The recently launched What about the Boys? campaign has already drawn significant support from civil society, advocacy organisations and corporate South Africa. The programme boasts a high-profile patron list that includes Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Professor Bonang Mohale, Dr Jerry Mofokeng, Sello Maake ka Ncube, Brighton Mhlongo, Elias Monage, Lindi Dlamini, William Lehong and Dr Reuel Khoza. Here is what some programme sponsors had to say: 


Markham’s Head of Marketing, Nicol Rademeyer, said: “As a prominent men’s brand, we believe that the future of the country is dependent on a nation of good men, who know right from wrong and challenge toxic masculinity by speaking out against violence and protecting those who cannot protect themselves.” 


South African mining powerhouse Seriti said that it is imperative for businesses to support programmes contributing towards building a future free of gender-based violence. This must be achieved with a two-pronged approach: by helping victims and by intervening in the lives of those who may become perpetrators in the future.

Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

The fund’s interim CEO, Dr Stanley Maphosa, said they are thrilled to be a part of this incredible initiative: “We believe that boys can play a fundamental role in the fight to end gender-based violence, and we look forward to providing them with the necessary tools, skills and agency to allow them to actively participate in this change.” 


The chemical and energy company says that its support for the programme is guided by the Sasol values — to be safe, caring, inclusive, accountable and resilient. This means respecting all people and being deliberate and outspoken when it comes to any form of harassment. 


CEO of the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA), Yershen Pillay, said: “Education plays an essential role in the fight against GBV. As an authority on education, skills development and training, we know that supporting 10 000 young learners to educate them on new forms of progressive masculinity goes a long way to making a dent on the bleak picture of GBV in South Africa.”  


Spar South Rand, a division of the SPAR Group, recognises that the time for passive involvement is over, and the only viable remedy is to take meaningful action. The supermarket chain’s Brotherhood ENDGBV programme has pledged to support the What about the Boys? campaign. 


EOH Chief Risk Officer Fatima Newman said: “We need to highlight the critical importance of raising our young boys to become courageous, dignified and respectful men; men who stand up for what is right and who set the right example for other men and boys on how to treat women and girls.”


The organisation welcomes the What about the Boys? initiative and acknowledges that South Africa’s most urgent need is to raise a nation of good men, one boy at a time. “It’s time to focus on the boys and turn the tide of violence in our country, across race and social class.” 

Brand South Africa 

The custodian of the nation brand welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Primestars programme to prevent and ultimately end GBV by empowering boys with information and insight on various aspects of this complex social issue.

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