Issue 17 – June, 2015

 I hate my breasts, but I love my vagina

Sonke’s Demelza Bush explores their own gender journey and unpacks the danger of society’s gender constructions and the difficulties they create for people like Demelza who identify outside of the man-woman gender binary. Not everyone is a man or a woman, explains Demelza, as they discuss their own “gender-queer” identity.

 Overcrowded jails are deadly and inhumane

Sonke’s Emily Keehn and Czerina Patel, and Lawyers for Human Rights’ Clare Ballard highlight the dangerous conditions of South Africa’s correctional facilities, especially detention centres like the one at Pollsmoor where nearly three times as many awaiting-trial detainees fill the cells than their maximum capacity permits, creating high risks for TB, violence, rape, mental illness and HIV.

Violence is less likely in homes where fathers share chores equally

Sonke’s Wessel van den Berg highlights important research from the inaugural State of the World’s Fathers report which makes the case for equitable gender roles in the household, including research from Norway that links men’s sharing of the unpaid house and care work to the reduction of violence against women and children.

Government must stop using stigmatising language to paint foreign nationals and sex workers as criminals

Sonke’s Marlise Richter interrogates Operation Fiela and asks what government means when it says, “As long as there are prostitution rings, drug dens and hijacked buildings, the operation [Fiela] will not be stopped.” She warns against the stigmatising language government is using and its targeting of South Africa’s most marginalised groups.

South Africa’s gold mines must be made accountable to sick mine workers and the women who care for them

Sonke and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) write about how a historic lawsuit (in which our organisations are applying to be amici curiae) presents the best opportunity to date to end the impunity with which profit-obsessed gold mining companies in South Africa exploit workers and allow conditions for fatal mining diseases to develop, hurting not only the miners, but their families, including the women and girls who are often left with the burden of care.

South Africans Call for a National Strategic Plan to End Gender-Based Violence

As part of our GBV NSP campaign (with the NSP Campaign Partners), we developed a postcard campaign in which ordinary South Africans talk about how gender-based violence (GBV) affects their lives, as they call on the South African government to develop and fund a comprehensive national plan to address GBV that incorporates broad prevention mechanisms. Along with these portraits, the postcards feature short stories about some of the many ways that GBV impacts on the lives of South Africans, like Melikhaya Solonzi (photographed above), who is seated at the back of the van in which he witnessed a woman (Sandiswa Mhlawuli) being murdered by her ex-partner, Nkos’inam Xabadiya. Xabadiya was later incarcerated after criminal proceedings at which Sonke and community action teams (CATs) consistently and strategically mobilised, demanding “Justice for Sandiswa.”

Sonke in Photos

Following more outbreaks of xenophobic violence in South Africa earlier this year, Sonke’s Refugee Health & Rights (RHR) team hosted a workshop on ‘Violence, Gender, Power and Health’ from May 20th – 22nd in Gauteng. The workshop focused on developing positive messages for a mural to be painted at Central Johannesburg College in Troyeville, promoting unity and integration in South Africa. “Everything communicated on this wall comes from community members,” says Sonke’s Joyce Dlamini, “We were expecting them to talk about gender-based violence and related topics but they chose xenophobia.” An artist was called to interpret the messages and Sonke’s RHR team then joined community members to paint murals (like this one above) promoting unity and non-violence, which were unveiled this month.

PSA: Say No to Xenophobia

Sonke’s radio public service announcement (PSA) “Say NO to xenophobia!” aired on a number of radio stations on Africa Day, and a shorter version of this announcement will soon be airing on SABC radio stations. In addition to this PSA, Sonke’s Khopotso Bodibe produced an audio vox pop feature about xenophobia and the idea of African unity which is celebrated globally on Africa Day. Sonke has been active in the South African media space opposing both xenophobic violence and “Operation Fiela,” which we see as a form of institutionalised xenophobia through its stigmatisation of foreign nationals as “criminals”.

THUTHUZELEKA – 13 episodes, 4 languages, one detective

In our last newsletter, we gave you a sneak preview of “Thuthuzeleka”, a crime/thriller series commissioned by Sonke. Now we’re pleased to share the full 13-part radio drama, produced in multiple languages (English, IsiZulu, SeSotho and Tshivenda), with you. The story, which follows detective Busi Ncube as she goes undercover to find a serial rapist on the loose, aims to bring hope and support to those who have suffered sexual assault or rape.

Sonke is providing the series to radio stations free of charge, along with a promotional trailer, the original theme song and a printed discussion guide, and will be training community radio stations around South Africa on how to use the radio drama. The series will start being broadcast in July.

Rethinking the Intersection of Gender, Sexuality and Religion

Earlier this month, Sonke, MenEngage Africa, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies brought together leaders and activists from all over Africa to participate in a workshop on “Religion, Gender and Sexuality.” Sonke’s Khopotso Bodibe, asked some of the participants about the importance of their convening to discuss gender and sexuality in the context of religion.

The State of South Africa's Fathers

Ahead of this month’s release of the inaugural State of the World’s Fathers (SOWF) Report, Sonke’s Demelza Bush and Khopotso Bodibe asked South Africans what fatherhood means to them. From paternity leave, to sharing the care-work, men, women and children shared their views about why fathers matter in a country where more than half of the children are growing up without a father present in the home. In addition to the global SOWF video, this South African SOWF video will be broadcast at the Africa launch of the SOWF report in Nairobi this week.

The Swedish model is not right for South Africa

Our animated video, produced by Sonke, in partnership with Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke Sex Worker Movement, and the Women’s Legal Centre, was featured on Upworthy last month and has had thousands of views. Breaking down the Swedish/Nordic model, this video explains why South Africa must fully – not partially – decriminalise sex work in order to protect sex workers, empower them, and improve their working conditions.

New Sonke site

Sonke is pleased to share with you our new website, which we launched earlier this year, but have been continuing to fill with great content – both new and from our archives. There’s more being added every week too. If you haven’t yet visited, please take a look around. We’ve redesigned the site and made it much easier for you to find what you’re looking for, including reports, journal articles, information about our projects, and lots of media documenting our work and our issues – from digital stories, to audio pieces, to multimedia slideshows, to case studies, to op-eds, and photography albums, there’s lots of interesting material to read, watch, listen to and see, and you can search by themes too.

The First Ever State of the World’s Fathers Report

This week, MenCare (along with coordinating and steering organisations Sonke, Promundo, Save the Children and Rutgers WPF) launched the first ever State of the World’s Fathers (SOWF) Report, which will seek to provide periodic, data-driven snapshots of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally. The SOWF report is focused on data and analysis about men and fatherhood related to: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal, newborn and child health; men’s caregiving and violence against children and women; and child development.

The inaugural SOWF 2015 report will be launched globally at events in New York, Washington DC, Nairobi, London, Geneva, Brussels and Amsterdam during the month of June. Sonke will release the State of Africa’s Fathers (SOAF) Report, a regional report adapted from the SOWF report which focuses on men’s caregiving practices in Africa, along with the global report, in Nairobi this week as well.

Two new reports from Sonke, MenEngage Africa and UNTF on gender-based violence in Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone

MenEngage Africa partners [Men Engage Kenya Network (MenKen), the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) and the Men’s Association for Gender Equality – Sierra Leone (MAGE-SL)] helped conduct research and studies to better understand gender-based violence in Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone and the role of gender transformative interventions such as those supported by the United Nations Trust Fund (UNTF) to End Violence against Women. The newly released project review includes interviews conducted with implementers and beneficiaries from UNTF-funded interventions in the three countries, with a specific interest in the role played by traditional leaders in their communities. The baseline report provides a comparative analysis of surveys done in the three countries and develops an empirical base upon which to advocate for and improve upon existing laws and policies that address GBV and promote gender equality (with a focus on engaging men and boys at all levels of interventions).

UN grants Sonke ECOSOC special consultative status

Sonke is pleased to announce that we have been granted Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN’s central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.

Special consultative status is granted to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have a special competence in, and are concerned with, only a few fields of activity covered by the ECOSOC.

In Sonke’s case, our work straddles gender and human rights, equality and HIV and AIDS. Being awarded Special Consultative Status means that Sonke’s advocacy work with the UN, and most importantly within Africa through UNECA (the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), will be a little bit easier as this will allow us access to high level sessions and facilitates easier participation within these processes.