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An Open Letter to the Men of South Africa


There is a week left of South African Women’s Month and for many of us Women’s Day was just another public holiday, another excuse for a long weekend and a day where some of us were even wished ‘happy Women’s Day’. Some men sent texts, some men went further and gave gifts or organized a girls’ day for the ladies in their lives. But be honest with me for a few minutes here:


How many men that you know asked the women in their lives, ‘What is it like to be a woman today, every day?’

How many men called attention to the fact that women in our country are five times more likely to die at the hands of a man than the average woman globally?

How many men donated to organizations supporting GBV and rape survivors or signed a petition against femicide?


If you were a man who did any of those things, you can consider yourself exempted from the rest of this piece (although somehow I feel if you were a man who did these things you would continue to read it regardless). If you weren’t, settle in.


TRIGGER WARNING: At this point I would discourage women and female-identifying people from reading.


These issues continue to be ‘women's issues’ and the alleviation and unlearning of the factors that contribute to them continue to be women’s responsibilities. But,

We are not the ones raping each other, beating and killing each other in the thousands every year and hundreds every month.

We are not the ones murdering each other in our student residencies, post offices, or while on our daily commutes.

We are not the ones raping each other on the sets of music videos, at parties or in our own beds.

We are not our own friends and relatives who perpetuate violence against us (over 50% of GBV incidents are committed by someone close to us).

We are not the stranger on the street who spots us walking home alone and decides to change our lives forever - or end it forever.


But,

We are the ones texting each other, ‘Did you get home safe?’

We are the ones buying rape whistles and pepper spray.

We are the ones who believe each other.

We are the ones who call your friends out when they say sexist things.

We are the ones donating on Women’s Day to women's charities and signing petitions.

We are the ones getting together to find out how to end this scourge of anger and entitlement that men continue to project as violence onto our bodies.


Gender-based violence as a whole costs our country between R28.4-billion and R42.4-billion per year as women make up for the majority of the population in South Africa (50.76%) as well as women-headed households being the norm (42,1%). Proof that GBV is not a women’s-only issue nor is it an only-male problem; it is a human issue, a societal issue, a national issue.


While it’s not all men it’s also not unlikely that you, the man reading this, has perpetrated an act of gender-based violence on a woman (76% of men in one Gauteng sample admit to doing so) . No, not all men abuse women… Just, most men. But, here are some things all men can do to change the situation:

  • DONATE to women's charities / support organizations : POWA , TEARS, Rape Crisis

  • SIGN PETITIONS that target legislation and specific court cases when you come across one

  • VOLUNTEER your skills to anti-GBV and rape counselling organisations

  • GO TO events that support women’s organizations and anti-GBV protests

  • CALL OUT the men in your life, and yourself when you say or do something that perpetuates rape culture and violence

  • CHECK ON the women in your life, make sure they get home safe

  • SPEAK TO WOMEN, and listen

  • FOLLOW accounts on social media that speak about these issues. My favourite educational ones are :I Hear You and Langa For Men


The tide doesn’t begin and end with men but it starts with you, your friends, your father, your brother, yourself. If you do something besides read this article this month, make it to do something whenever you get the opportunity to do so. Sharing this article to the men in your life is a great place to start.


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