“Less Risk – more responsibility. One Man Can is going to infect every man in Gugulethu with Love.” With these words, Patrick Godana, the National One Man Can Manager in Cape Town, opened the One Man Can Men’s Wellness Centre in Gugulethu on 17 February 2012, amidst ululation and applause from hundreds of men, women and children.
A joint venture between Sonke Gender Justice and the City of Cape Town, the Wellness Clinic provides information, education, advice and clinical services to men who may otherwise not seek support regarding health issues. The clinic has been long in the pipeline at Sonke, and staff from Sonke’s Cape Town office are already spending two days a week at the Gugulethu clinic.
A representative from the City of Cape Town joined Patrick in unveiling the facility. A series of unprepossessing prefabricated structures, the Wellness Centre houses office space for Sonke staff who work in the community; storage space for materials and condoms; an open space for meetings, group sessions and workshops; and a consulting room and counselling room where the clinical services will be provided by a male nurse (our brother the Sister!)
Led by the police brass band, the Sonke and City staff, along with community members and representatives from numerous other NGOs and CBOs, marched from the clinic to the Ikwezi Community Centre, where speakers spoke with passion about the importance of the clinic and its role in the community.
Whether one needs a blood pressure or cholesterol check, HIV or STI testing, advice around relationships or erectile dysfunction, the speakers all emphasised the importance of men feeling comfortable to visit the clinic to seek information and support to improve their health. And they called on women to support men and to be part of the process of ensuring better health for the whole community.
Speakers also denounced violence against women, demanding that so-called correctional rape come to an end, that harassment and abuse of women wearing mini-skirts be halted and that men stand up to ensure that women’s rights are protected.
“Sonke works towards a society that is violence free, for women and for men,” said Khanya Mpuang, manager of Sonke’s training and community mobilisation efforts. “For such a young organisation, we have taken on so much, and we are enormously grateful to partners like the City of Cape Town, for helping us with this.”
Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Cllr Lungiswa James said that the clinic was a “golden opportunity” for men to improve their health and wellness.
“The need for such a dedicated men’s clinic was identified when we realised that men are often reluctant to visit general clinics, despite their susceptibility to particular types of illness,” she said.
“Men tend to seek support for health problems indirectly, with perceived vulnerability, fear and denial being important influences. Other barriers to seeking medical help include factors related to a man’s traditional role in society, difficulty in relinquishing control, and a sense of immunity.“
“As a result of these factors, we see men’s life expectancy being lower than that of women,” Cllr James pointed out.
“The clinic intends to make men partners in health by providing a space to actively participate in health matters and take full responsibility.
“As a Caring City, we are working tirelessly to provide this service in all areas,” she said. “We urge men to use these services for their own benefit and the benefit of their families and the entire society.”
Cllr James thanked all those who had made the clinic possible, including Mzoli Properties for donating the physical structure; Klipfontein Sub-District officials, and the Sonke Gender Justice team.
It was wonderful to receive commitments of support from the City, local religious leaders, children and non-profit organisations.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible!
Quotes sourced from the City of Cape Town’s website.