Last year, One Man Can National Manager, Patrick Godana, represented Sonke in Botswana at a workshop organised by the Africa Region of the World Council of Churches.
Report on Botswana Trip: A Transformative Masculinity Workshop
On the 10th of October 2011, I arrived in Mahalapye, about a 3 hour drive outside Gabarone. It seems completely out of this world – in desert, surrounded by thorn trees, sandy pathways, animals freely moving in their space, total tranquility – a great space for meditation and reflection. The attendees arrived as strangers coming from different countries across the SADC region. We left each other as sisters and brothers and knowing each other more despite our different experiences, countries and even church affiliation. The venue was the Catholic centre at Kanamo, and the proceedings were led by the warm Bishop Frank Nubuasah and his capable friendly team.
Day one focused on introductions and our expectations of the workshop. That was followed by a powerful presentation that set the tone of the workshop by Professor Musa Dube from the Tswana Society, focusing on the Construction of Men.
From her input it was very clear that churches are far from practising equality. She gave a very exciting critical analysis of Tswana culture and the current challenges that Botswana faces. As a result, the government suggested that some of the positive aspects of traditional culture should be brought back as everyone seemed to be really crying out about the moral decay of the society. She also gave very moving perspective on colonialism and the English culture and language on how they have damaged African values to an extent that we are no longer proud of our own cultural values and elements of our own worship. Sadly, her paper did not make mention of anything concerning LGBTI although at some stage she gave input relating to sexuality. In the Q and A session I then raised that as my concern which she took in good spirits and alluded to it as she did not want to be seen as bashing the church and clergy too much.
The other presentation was given by Dr Nkele Ndomulungu Roger a specialist, who spoke about men’s health and gave input on strategies for safe Medical Male Circumcision. He reported that they are getting many requests from people needing the procedure and called upon the church to support the initiative. Yes, there are challenges that they face especially with their clients’ follow up sessions. The gender aspect unfortunately is not being addressed in the messages given so I shared how we at Sonke include a gender dimension in our MMC initiatives.
Great bible study sessions followed, and the next day we were led in contextual bible study initiatives by professor Ezra Chitando and our sister, Pastor Pumzile Zondi-Mabizela, a very powerful woman of faith who brought huge experiences of liberation theology perspectives and citing from well known scholars Gerald West, Gutierrez, Bonhover et al. We completed practical exercises linking biblical texts to issues of gender equality and we explored how, as clergy, we can deal with sexual violence in more positive and effective ways.
I presented in the late afternoon the next day, and I must say, the presentation was well received. It touched many people and during the presentation there was total tranquility and people in tears, which made me also cry with them. I presented together with a young man from PADARE. It was really great to have shared the platform with him, as if we had carefully planned the strategy of what to say and the responses we would give. (We did not have any planning sessions!) I also conducted a session on GBV and shared the One Man Can anthem.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to have been chosen to represent Sonke, as my input was deeply appreciated. Thanks to the CSI team for the materials that they have given that I may give to others. It was beautiful to see people from other organisations wearing Sonke T-shirts!