Men and Gender Activism in South Africa

Observations, critique and recommendations for the future

This focus describes the origins, philosophies and rationales of some of the early pro-feminist men’s organisations in South Africa since 1994. It looks at some of the literature on men and masculinities in South Africa and makes the claim that work with men in South Africa is in both women’s and men’s interest. The paper provides an overview of select male involvement programmes in South Africa and attempts to identify lessons emerging from these efforts. It challenges the overly narrow focus characteristic of many of these programmes. It also makes the case that work with men needs to move beyond a narrow reliance on workshops and community education and become more activist in its approach to demanding solutions to domestic and sexual violence and to promoting gender equality. The paper concludes by drawing on an example of successful gender activism and points to possible next steps.