Call to promote healthier relationships between men and women

August as Women’s Month is upon us. We will be repeating the same mantras about women empowerment and their greater representation in all institutions in our public and private sectors. Is it not time to refocus our discourse during this year of the 100th anniversaries of Albertina Sisulu and Nelson Mandela?
It is only when the focus shifted to “consciousness” of the power relationships within our society based on colour coding to justify exploitation of the majority by a minority, that things began to change.
The majority population no longer waited to be “empowered” but declared themselves black and proud, and ready to liberate themselves from the imposed inferiority and superiority complexes that perpetuated racist exploitation and injustice. Young black people realised that liberation starts with freeing oneself from the psychological damage of inferiority complexes at the personal level. This then sets the tone for confident professional and political leadership.
The young people in the leadership of that Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s-1970s went further. They invited their white counterparts, beneficiaries of the colour coded unjust system, to also do the work to free themselves from the psychological damage of superiority complexes.
The new energy young people from the Black Consciousness Movement and all others inspired by them accelerated the road to our celebrated political settlement. It gave impetus to the Mass Democratic Movement that mobilised citizens across the society to become their own liberators. Both white and black people were liberated from the entrapment of power relationships that perpetuated apartheid.
We now need to apply the lessons from this historical experience to complete the liberation of our society from the persistent social ills from the legacy of that unjust system. Structural violence that perpetuates poverty, inequality and unemployment lies behind our very high gender-based violence and deeply entrenched patriarchal system.
Promoting healthier relationships between men and women needs to go beyond the “empowerment of women” rhetoric. The problem does not lie with women. The problem lies with the quality of relationships between women and men and societal norms that frame and promote them.
I have the privilege of working with a man who has used the lessons of his personal journey to transform his understanding of masculinity as a complementary gift to femininity to make whom we are.
Craig Wilkinson, the founder of Father A Nation, is working with me to promote healing of our nation. We have seen our approach over the last few months enable both men and women to celebrate their femininities and masculinities.
Healing ourselves as men and women is essential to create complementary relationships to support healthier homes, families, communities and society in which boys and girls can grow into confident citizens.
Ancient African culture infused with Ubuntu provides us with models of these complementary relationships that contrast sharply with the European inspired patriarchal systems that undermine the place of women in society.
We need to resist the temptation to fight fire with fire. Toxic abusive masculinity is no excuse to demonise men.

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