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Changing gender norms

As an organisation devoted in strengthening the response to HIV, changing gender norms is one of our objectives. This is because gender norms perpetuate HIV in a sense that they are bias and they oppress empower one sex. Females are oppressed by gender norms which make them vulnerable to male domination. In that way males are given power to do as they please to women because it is an acceptable thing to the society.

Through Stepping Stones workshops (a workshop series designed as a tool to help promote sexual health, improve psychological well-being and prevent HIV) and community dialogues (An interactive participatory communication process of sharing information between community members aimed at reaching fair and common understanding of gender based violence) we have been successful in fulfilling our objectives of changing gender norms.

Stories below illustrate how some of our participants have changed their behaviour in relation to gender stereotypes.

Nkosinathi Gazu

Nkosinathi Gazu is a 19-year-old boy from ward 11(Quarry Heights) which is one of Durban sub areas. The area is largely dominated by informal settlements with a population estimate of more than 52.566 population number.
Nkosinathi is wild boy who is well known for his soccer skills which makes him spent much of his time with his friends playing or watching soccer games. Meanwhile here sister Thembi does all the inside tasks like cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Throughout growing Nkosinathi’s knew that his jobs were to wash a car and clean the yard if it happens to be dirty as told by his parents who are very culturally embedded. They raise their children in cultural old ways that promote gender inequality.

Until November after Nkosinathi attended Stepping Stones workshop his behaviour started changing. “I have begun assisting my sister with washing dishes and is learning to cook when I returns from my soccer practise”. Through Stepping Stones, he was able to evaluate and question himself and his behaviour in relation to the gender roles and gender inequality “I have realized we are enslaving my sister and she has blood too, she gets tired too”.
In promoting gender equality and changing gender norms, we are reducing HIV because women are no longer seen as slaves and subordinates of men. That decreases the level of vulnerability of women that is course by the old traditional stereotypes.

Mxolisi’s story

Mxolisi is a 42 years old father who does EPWP job in eThekwini municipality. He is a father to 3 children and a husband to Nomathemba whom they live with in a four room house at Quarry heights (ward 11). Despite of Quarry Heights being an area dominated by informal settlements because of poverty Mxolisi managed to build a four room house for his family. The community has different challenges including crime, poverty and violence.
As per family activities Nomathemba takes care of the children and house duties like cleaning and cooking. “I’ve always known that when I get home after work I have to find food prepared for me and would take no excuses because I fulfil my duty which is to provide finances to the family” Mxolisi said.

Attending our community dialogue which addresses the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in communities help Mxolisi change his way of thinking towards gender roles.” I gained so much that it made me see how oppressive I am to my partner. I have started helping out with some of house duties for instance cooking and cleaning” he said
As a vastly challenged area, community members in Quarry Heights are always summoned to community meetings to discuss about those particular challenges.

Men are always scarce and they usually hide behind excuses. Mxolisi has been part of those men, he “came to this meeting because I was bored”. Nomathemba has been the only one attending community meetings in their household “only to realise I was missing out on great things that can make our homes and community a better place” also been the one attending these meetings”.

Mxolisi realisation of his oppressiveness to her woman help in the reduction of HIV in that it promotes equality and provides a room for men as oppressors to change their mind sets towards women. His experience also helps promote participation of men in the struggle of building healthy communities that are free from crime, abuse and violence.

Gender norms has contributed largely to the perpetuation of HIV because it has remained not transformed regardless of the change in the conditions of the world. Our workshops, including community dialogues assist in transforming and rectifying those disproportional social stereotypes by empowering both males and female to question the existing stigmas in relation to current reality.

Menzi Hlabisa: Knowledge Officer

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