25/11/2017 04:57 GMT | Updated 25/11/2017 04:57 GMT

Want To Fight Gender-Based Violence? Start With Young Boys


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A conversation about ending violence against women and children cannot and should not happen without talking to men too -- as many of them are at the centre of the violence.

"Men must be at the centre of advocacy in tackling the scourge of violence against women and children," said the minister of women in the presidency, Susan Shabangu, on Tuesday.

She was addressing parliament ahead of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, which starts on November 25.

'Freedom will be meaningless if women and children cannot walk freely in our streets.' — Minister of women in the presidency Susan Shabangu

This is a necessity "in a society that cares about changing attitudes and mindsets in transforming unequal power relations between men and women", she said.

In 2017, the country has witnessed an increase in femicides and violence against women and children.

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Shabangu commended various campaigns, through which "men are now talking about the problems of absent fathers and [its] impact on families", and pointed out that the job is not done until all men are talking and doing something about this.

Her sentiments were echoed by the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, which said foundational teaching about gender-based violence must start at a very young age. "The roots of rape culture and abuse start [in] childhood. Teaching children at a young age about what consent means will change their perspectives on gender, sexuality and violence," the foundation said in a statement.

And this is especially important to young boys, so they do not grow up with harmful attitudes about what it means to be a man.

The foundation said that this could be practically achieved in these ways:

1. Teach boys about the importance of consent, regardless.

2. Teach boys that girls are their equals.

3. Teach boys that violence is not cute, sexy or acceptable.

4. Teach boys to challenge their peers when they objectify or denigrate women.

5. Teach boys that it's okay to express their feelings.

"Freedom will be meaningless if women and children cannot walk freely in our streets. Freedom will be meaningless if our children cannot play freely in their neighbourhoods. Freedom will be meaningless if the home is no longer a safe place to be for women and children," concluded Shabangu.