What does it mean to be an African man in the 21st century? Why are we faced by a dearth of good male role models in society, yet how can we challenge young men in South Africa to rise to the call and choose to be leaders without receiving backlash from feminist circles?
These were some of the questions my friends and I have been seeking to answer for the better part of a year, and it resulted in us creating a social movement called “AmaDODA”, which means “Men” in Zulu – a South African Language. Launched less than five months ago our Facebook page has garnered over 2000 Likes and created a stir on campuses in South Africa.
Our vision is clear; we want to inspire a generation of young men to become men of value. We recognized that many individuals have been raised by powerful women, but where is the integrity of men? In the past many homes in South Africa were broken by labour migrancy. Working men moved to the city to be able to better support their families but left for good. It’s become common to hear of men who ran away from their families and shirked their responsibility. And for those who do wish to take responsibility, we hear stories of how they only return 20 years later when their children have formed their identities and have become hardened by being abandoned at a young age.
It is a reasonable assumption to make that being male carries some negative connotations. As the founders of AmaDODA we believe that there needs to be a space where men can grapple with the issues they face.
We wish to raise men of value. We are geared towards making this a positive space amongst young males through thought provoking posts on our page, community building initiatives in High Schools, and panel discussions.
Our first campaign was called “Why do I have to be successful”. We asked men from varying positions in society to send in a picture and a caption of what drove them to pursue success. We received pictures from young high school students, university students and individuals who are part of the working class. This led to various interviews with Cape Talk, Power FM and radio stations around South Africa. We have also been interviewed by local and online newspapers, and also by an American Scholar in order to define what the movement stands for. Myself and Leroy Nyarhi will join an American conference, where we will be speaking to young black Americans about what men’s identity means from an AmaDODA perspective.
Vitally, we have recently secured a partnership with international women’s organisation V-DAY to bring the initiative One Billion Rising to the University of Cape Town. The theme for next year is “Rise for Justice”. As student leaders we identify with the fight against violent crimes against women and children and will be active in the 16 day initiative this December.
AmaDODA has received a lot of backlash from feminists; some say we are deepening an already existent patriarchal society others say we are excluding the female voice. We believe that men and women are equal but that there are certain issues that men face that are unique to men and inextricably linked to their gender identity. While there are certain constructs that we hold that may be flawed, this doesn’t make men any better than or inferior to women. We seek to redefine masculinity in the context of its tarnished reputation – our country has one of the highest rape statistics and incidents of violence against women and children. We need to undo this, by changing the mind-sets of our young brothers because in future, they will be “Heads of Households”, and they cannot continue to suppress the female voice.
As AmaDODA we do not propose that we know best how a man should think act or speak – this is a concept that is in constant flux, and should be discussed openly amongst individuals.
Our partnership with V-Day and its South African Subsidiary V-Girls speaks volumes of how we are willing to come together with feminist organisations to drive change.
I was raised by an African Matriarch – my grandmother – and from an early age I learnt that more often than not, women are the heads of families and that society needs to begin recognising this fact. She taught me a brand of feminism I hold dear and I hope to spread through AmaDODA.
Young men need to take a stand together- to rebuild their image and gain trust again by being good participants in society. With the many stories of rape, domestic abuse and abandonment, we have a long way to go, but with initiatives such as AmaDODA we have created hope, I believe that this is the first step towards rethinking gender.
We must now take responsibility but most importantly we can and must rebuild our identity.
We cannot sire another fatherless generation…
Dalisu Jwara is a 3rd year Business Science student at the University of Cape Town. He currently serves as the President of the UCT Investment Society, the largest student executive society in South Africa.
He writes in his capacity as one of the 5 founders of AmaDODA, a movement which aims to raise men of value.
Other Co-founders are Leroy Nyarhi, Tapuwa Mataruka, Munashe Gomwe and Munya Tshuma.