Nzimande urges men and boys to become active and positive advocates for gender equality

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Higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande says gender inequality is not a women’s issue but a human rights issue that affects everyone in society. 

He said the engagement of men and boys is a crucial element to achieve the progress desired in South Africa and beyond. 

Nzimande delivered a keynote address at the inaugural Transforming MENtalities summit in Boksburg on Tuesday.

He said the rationale for the summit stems from discussions held within the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) last year dealing with a universal concern to bring men and boys into the discourses on gender equality. 

In 2015 Unesco launched its Transforming MENtalities Programme in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote positive redefinitions of norms of masculinity and meaningful engagement of men and boys, alongside women and girls, in the global pursuit for gender equality. 

“Globally current trends show men and boys have largely been excluded from the gender equality discourse. As the saying goes it takes two to tango,” Nzimande said.  

He said the rate at which women are killed by their intimate partners in South Africa is five times higher than the global average.

“Gender-based violence [GBV], a widespread and common occurrence in South Africa, is deeply ingrained in homes, workplaces, cultures and traditions,” he said.

The minister said GBV manifests in different forms that include physical, emotional, psychological, financial or structural harm and is usually perpetrated by intimate partners, work colleagues, strangers and even institutions. 

“We know GBV is found in all South Africa’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic communities and is deeply connected to the history of patriarchy.”

He said physical and psycho-social infliction of violence on women and girls are not the only manifestations of GBV in society. Nzimande said many forms of violence are not overt and personal, but structural, hidden and “naturalised” in the organisation of power in society and the economy.  

“Conventionally, issues about gender equality have often mainly been placed in the public arena by women. However, it is difficult to reform social structures towards equality without a broad social consensus and ownership between men and women.”

He said to rectify the discrepancy in power relations, men and boys must become active and positive advocates for gender equality. He said stereotypes and norms need to be rethought and relationships between women and men reshaped. 

“With an increasing awareness of men and boys as a necessary part of the solution, there is an urgent need to chart a clear road ahead for their involvement as change agents for gender equality.”


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