The positive impact of Fathers in Africa and what else needs to be done

By Kevin Rutter, Founder of Fathers in Africa @fathersinafrica

Preventing violence is a large part of what Fathers in Africa works to achieve every day. To do this, we need to change the social conditions in communities where violence is normal and acceptable.

Men and boys receive, sort through, and enforce the wrong messages about relationships, violence, and power every day. They also send potent messages about relationships, violence, and power. These messages enforce patriarchy, anti-feminism, homophobia, and other forms of toxic masculinity. This daily socialisation is bad for women, girls, men, and boys and needs to be addressed.

Because men enjoy certain privileges in institutions established by sexism, they have greater access to resources and opportunities to influence large social structures and institutions. It is for this reason that they play an important role in preventing violence against women.

That’s why Fathers in Africa has developed a school curriculum – Boyz will be Men – which challenges the “boy code” and masculinity. The objective is to help young men understand the benefits of embracing feminism and to accept that the traditional “man box” definitions of masculinity promote an unhealthy attitude towards manhood. This project involves training and equipping male mentors with a similar mind-set so they can guide young men, helping them to break away from these norms and live healthier, happier lives.

This process is hugely beneficial to women and children, as men learn to be more loving and caring.

To see how this programme has had a real benefit on young men, we invite you to read the two case studies below.

Sinethemba Qamani was born in a small, poverty-stricken township (Marcel) in the Eastern Cape. Sinethemba called Fathers in Africa late one night and sent a cry for help. He had dropped out of school at age 14 and was doing odd construction jobs to help support his brother. He never knew his father and his mom had moved to Port Elizabeth to try get domestic work.

We offered to support him financially so he could complete his schooling and to mentor him. He really battled in the beginning, getting 6% for his first maths exam, but our relationship with him grew and he started excelling. He received the Headmasters Award in Grade 11 and Grade 12. He was elected as a prefect in his final year and passed matric with exemption. He is now married, studying for his degree part-time, and managing a successful restaurant in Port Elizabeth.

Xolani was hooked on Nyope and living under a bridge in Sunnyside, Pretoria. He moved to Pretoria from the Eastern Cape after having his right leg amputated because of bone cancer. He begged at traffic lights for a living, often resorting to smash-and-grab tactics to feed his craving for the next fix. A Pretoria businessman, who had attended one of our mentorship workshops, felt compassion for Xolani and took on the role of father to him to help and support him.

Spending time with young men works and both of these case studies illustrate how effective our programme is.

During the programme, we look at a resocialisation process, where boys and men are taught to unlearn some toxic brands of masculinity and learn more about how to embrace a gentler, more caring manhood. Now, the goal is to scale up these types of interventions so we may have an even bigger influence on whole communities.