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Khanyisile Ntsenge: Monitoring, Evaluation and Knowledge Manager
02 July 2017

“A young mosquito, having recently learned how to fly decided to explore the world. Upon returning home, the mosquito narrated to its parent the adventures it had been on during the day. Most exciting to the young mosquito was how when it flew into a house, people clapped. The parent mosquito’s face turned from one of happiness into one of concern and distress. The parent shouted at the little mosquito to never leave the house or to leave the house only when accompanied by the parent mosquito”.

On a chilly day at a Lindelani community church thirty-two (32) 15-19 year old women listen to the story. The story is narrated by Gugu Msimang, a young woman in her early thirties who facilitates Stepping Stones for Project Empower under the DREAMS programme.

While Gugu has facilitated nine sessions dealing with various gender norms issues – including sex and love, conception and contraception, HIV, Safer Sex and Gender Based Violence – the group of young women is particularly engaged by the topic on communication. In particular, the young women are interested in understanding how to navigate communication with parents who seemingly disregard their voices.

Key questions are:
• How should parents speak to children?
• How should children speak to parents?
• Who should earn respect and who gains it by virtue of their position of power?

“Parents do not listen to us, they just want to shout” is a response from one of the ladies. The rest of the group agrees. It is difficult, near impossible – the participants feel – to have a rational conversation with their parents. As the group agrees on this premise, it becomes clear that the main issue of contention between young women and parents (especially their mothers) are males.

”I can’t tell mom anything when she has convinced herself that I are running around in the streets with boys (sic)” says one girl to the agreement of the entire group. “When I walk into the house after six, my mom is ready to hit me because she says I was sitting with boys on the street (sic)”.

Gugu facilitates a conversation about effective communication between parents and children. She emphasises the importance of allowing the other party to speak and expressing their issues on a matter. Through play acting, Gugu shows the young women how to listen better and communicate effectively.

She stresses that although the participants have a voice and their voices should be heard, it is important that participants respect parents and their roles as leaders in the household. It is important that parents’ warnings are heeded because they have something the participants do not have: wisdom.

Gugu does however agree with the young women that parents are human too. Like all human beings, they will make mistakes and lose their tempers unjustly. But this comes predominantly from a position of fear. In a world where girl children are abducted on a daily basis, the teenage incidence of teenage pregnancy high and alcohol abuse rampant – parents fear the loss of their children to social ills.

Gugu references the story of the young mosquito. The parent mosquito was happy that the young mosquito had learned to fly. However, wisdom had taught the parent that the clapping of hands signaled possible death. Conversely, parents often react out of fear. Effective communication between parents and children will not only prevent rebellion, but will also facilitate healthier parent child relationships and harmonious homes.

While this session seems to have planted, in the minds of the participants, a seed on the importance of communication among – it exposes the ever present need of an intervention targeted at parents. A concerted effort needs to be made to ensure that both parents and children engage simultaneously on issues of gender norms and social cohesion.

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