In June 2010, a team of five Sonke staff members had the incredible opportunity to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for a week long knowledge exchange visit. The team had an exceptional experience, sharing information and experiences with Instituto Promundo staff and different stakeholders working with men in promoting gender equality.
“It was a great eye-opener for me to learn how other organisations are working with men and young boys for the promotion of gender equitable societies. I learnt a lot from sharing experiences and we need more of these exchange visit programmes so as to enhance our capacity and skills in executing our daily tasks”, said Leo Mbobi, one of Sonke’s One Man Can trainers who went on the exchange.The first activity was a visit to Santa Marta where a programme educating men through street soccer is run. The excursion was followed by an informal dialogue and reflection at the Promundo offices, in which groups presented their understanding and expertise on gender advocacy and activism work. Later, a meeting was convened with a community group providing counselling to perpetrators of gender-based violence.
This was followed by a visit to the Favelas, to meet a group of young people working with other youngsters on issues of masculinity, sexuality and HIV & Aids. The tour ended with a dialogue with feminist groups where Regis Mtutu represented Sonke and gave a presentation on Sonke’s experiences in working with men and boys. He also highlighted the need for coalitions to work together to ensure that guiding gender protocols and national policies are put in place and implemented properly.
The Exchange Visit programme includes various organisations within the Men Engage Alliance, an international network of organisations working with men and boys to promote gender equality. The visit to Rio was followed in late July by a visit to South Africa, and will be followed by a final visit to India later in the year. Unfortunately, the team from India who were also supposed to join the visit to Rio could not make it due to the fact that they were unable to get visas in time, however they were able to join the team in South Africa.
The South African leg of the programme included a visit to Sonke’s offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The visitors were taken to see a number of Sonke’s projects and meet a range of organisations working on issues of gender and HIV. A dialogue was also arranged with traditional women’s rights organisations to speak about the role of organisations working with men and boys and opportunities for future collaboration.
Thus far, the exchange programme has been a great success, fostering closer ties between the organisations involved and offering staff new insights into ways of working with men and boys.