The Fatherhood Project: A Force for Change

Community members participate in an OMC workshop

With the quest to continuously engage and work with men on gender transformation programmes and initiatives, Sonke Gender Justice embarked on the “Force for Change Fatherhood Project” in the Mhlontlo municipality, a rural community in the Eastern Cape. Two villages, Balasi and Shawbury, were engaged through the outreach activities.

The Force for Change Fatherhood Project aims at engaging and working with men with particular focus on children’s rights, particularly orphans and vulnerable children, by identifying and meeting their needs. The project focussed particularly on issues around Gender-Based Violence and HIV and Aids.

The project specifically aimed to include men and engage them in spearheading the initiative and facilitating dialogue around gender equality, denouncing violence against women and children in its many forms. Discussions on responsible parenthood were critical, not only to the participants own children but also for ensuring that orphans and vulnerable children have access to essential care and support, include accessing children’s grants, psycho-social support and education. Sonke undertook peer education training in a number of different contexts in the district, including schools and local government bodies.

Siyakhanyisa, a local CBO which has enormous experience in working with people living with HIV and Aids, collaborated with Sonke in the peer education trainings.

Initiates who participated in OMC training

An exciting new avenue of training was undertaken when Dr Mgobhozi, the Director of Siyakhanyisa, approached Sonke requesting assistance in training 18 initiates before they went to the initiation school. The training focused on HIV and Aids, Sexually Transmitted Infections, links between STIs and HIV, and circumcision and HIV risks. The training was attended by young boys between 15 to 18 years old.

It was also the first training conducted with a surgeon who performs traditional circumcisions and this paved the way for dialogue with traditional surgeons and has created an opportunity to train more of the young initiates in future.

School-based training was undertaken at Little Flower High School and Qumbu Village High School. Sonke offered refresher courses targeting 30 learners from each school who had previously been trained as social change agents in their communities.

During the month of August and September, Sonke also facilitated community Imbizos in Shawbury and Balasi villages as part of traditional meetings with highly respected community traditional leaders including chiefs.

The Imbizos aimed to create open spaces to address and discuss issues affecting the communities, including gender-based violence, and the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS.The first imbizo was held in Shawbury at Chief Veco’s high place (KoMkhulu) and was attended by 90 men who discussed at length issues around good and responsible fatherhood as well as addressing the challenges that orphans and vulnerable children are facing.These activities have helped strengthen community relations and broaden the community’s understanding around gender issues, gender-based violence and HIV and Aids and Sonke looks forward to continuing to work in these communities in 2010.