One Man Can


Program director, honourable members of the conference allow me to greet in the name of Peace and Justice. I am honoured to be invited to speak in this occasion to share success stories of our programmes we render back home as response to gender violence. The programme is called One Man Can popular known as OMC.

One Man Can deals with three interconnected epidemics that are somewhat ravaging our country, our continent and the universe. Friends, I am talking about violence against women and children, HIV/AIDS and our silence two the two epidemics. To do justice it becomes important for me to share the hard facts about South Africa:

  • 1 in every 4 South African men have admitted having raped a woman and many have confessed to raping more than one woman.
  • 1 in every 3 women was forced into her first sexual encounter
  • Every 6 hours a woman is killed by her boyfriend or husband- the highest rate ever recorded in anywhere in the world. ( this is from MRC study)
  • Currently our across South Africa there is a brutal sexual assault and killings of women because of being lesbians. They mercilessly raped as their rapist seek to correct their sexual orientation. (corrective rape)

One Man Can is an attempt to involve men to end the spread of HIV/AIDS and its impact. It is a strategy to involve men to take a positive stand against all forms of gender based Violence.OMC came into being 4 years ago when Sonke was approached by the Western Cape Provincial government to come up with strategy plan for the 16days of Activism. Program director, I want to tell my story and later show digital story for they connect very well with the One Man Can Campaign. I am an African, and my clan name is Gatyeni was born in a very violent family and was exposed to all sorts of violence.

On the home front my father was a very violent man. He used to beat up our mother and we would be forced to leave home running and seek refuge at our uncle. And he too was exposed to violence. He name was Jim but at his workplace he was just an ordinary black man called by name Jim even by his bosses’ children. As children we knew that weekends we had to be ready for action. The police then in my hometown Port Elizabeth used to travel with Umgqomo (Police Big Van) .My father used to be a victim of police. They would arrest him infront of our yard accusing him of being drunk. Unfortunately for him he had athlete’s feet which made him to walk uneven and he could not express himself very well in English. He would spend most weekends behind bars for nothing. And that made him to doubt his manhood and his authority. As a result he was always shouting at us and beat my mother mercilessly.

As a young boy I was always told to be strong. (Not to show emotions) (Will relate this to HIV/AIDS and GBV). As anti apartheid activist, I was also expose to large amount of violence perpetrated by the then regime through its military forces and I remember the year 1985, the international youth year, we were determined to free our country and our people by all means and I ended up in jail for furthering the aims of a banned movement. I was trained as combatant. In 1983/84 I skipped the country South Africa to attended military training, in Lesotho and in Zambia respectively. As combatant I was trained and socialised to use violence and this continued to shape my behaviour even after struggle. Violence is equated to with manhood and warrior identity can come to dominate. (This can bad for women as their identity becomes nothing)Violence becomes a norm. Once confronted with pressures of life one gets easily to resort to violence and traditional gender roles. Most armies, struggles with gender issues and suffer from gender imbalances. Military wings were no different. Women had a hard time of it in the camps. They were sometimes used and abused, despite the stated commitment to gender equality and the frequent quoting of Samora Machel’s famous statement, “The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory.” This led to the establishment of new, RULE, it was a new rule- “that no officer will have relationship with a new recruit because is the unfair relationship... people complained about it but it was observed. I ended up in jail sentenced to 5years effective. I was tortured and still carry the scars in my body.

This kind of background shaped me to view violence as routine, as an almost normal part of life and it left me with a very narrow view of life and of women. Fortunately I had opportunities to reflect on my socialization and to reject violence. I had a chance to receive counselling for the trauma I endured at the hands of the apartheid regime. I was also fortunate to attend course at UWC with a brilliant feminist theologian (Prof. Dennis Ackerman) who helped to reflect on gender. Then in 1998, I was part of the team that launched the Men as Partners Programme, similar to OMC. Through these experiences I was able to reflect on my personal journey, my exposure to violence and the messages I received about being a man. And through doing that I was able to make choices about what kind of a man I wanted to be and to reject those attitudes and behaviours that I saw as oppressive to both men and women. As an activist, I realized that my commitment was to FREEDOM FOR ALL / ALL SHALL BE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW. Always driven by the words of the late Samora Machel on the emancipation of women.

The program (One Man Can) then became the second phase of my struggle. We have attained our political power but now we must ensure that everyone does enjoy those freedoms. And that’s why we are here—to call on all men to take a stand against the male violence that 17 years into our democracy still devastates women’s lives. I’m here to call on all men and to take seriously the slogan “our strength is not for hurting” and to redefine strength as being in the service of standing up for our convictions and for ending men’s violence. How do we do that? I’d like to suggest the following ways:

10 Things men can do to prevent gender violence

  1. Approach gender violence as a MEN'S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  2. If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner -- or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general -- don't look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don't know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counsellor. DON'T REMAIN SILENT.
  3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don't be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the One Man Can initiative across and beyond the boundaries of SA.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves.
  8. Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don't fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women.


Where are we now and how do we reach out?

  1. Sonke works across SA on range of projects and through our OMC has reached 25,000 through workshops.
  2. In 2009 we hosted Men Engage Africa Symposium, attended by 300 delegates from 25 countries.
  3. Sonke works very close with SAPS, traditional leaders and provide technical assistance for partner organisations on the implementation of OMC.
  4. Developed Fatherhood project in two areas KZN and EC and needs financial support to be rolled out to other parts.
  5. Sonke is working with IRC in Cote d’Ivoire to create a model intervention in working with men and boys.
  6. Sonke directors were actively involved in the development of the UNAIDS operational Plan on Gender and HIV which now includes clear language on and commitments to working with men and boys
  7. In 2009, Sonke participated at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York
  8. Recently participate in exchange programme with Brazil and India on strategies with men and boys.
  9. Sonke uses spectrum of change model, drawing on a broad range of social change strategies. (Explain)
  10. Driving Prison’s project and really struggles with our work on Sexual Violence in SA prisons.(this is very close to my heart as some men and juveniles always pin their hopes at Sonke their relief)
  • Networking/Partnership
  • Advocacy
  • Capacity building
  • Community education and Mobilisation
  • Individual skills building
  • Research, Monitoring and Evaluation.


Please make use of the material that I have given out.

I thank you!

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