Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Transforming Masculinities: A Qualitative Study of a Transformative Education Programme for Young Zulu Men and Boys in Rural KwaZulu-Natal

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Transforming Masculinities: A Qualitative Study of a Transformative Education Programme for Young Zulu Men and Boys in Rural KwaZulu-Natal

Article excerpt


South Africa has the worst known figures for gender-based violence for a country not at war, with at least one in three South African women being raped in their lifetime (Moffett, 2006), with young men being the main perpetrators of this violence. In an attempt to address masculine domination and support men to examine and transform distorted masculinities, there is a growing body of work concerning involvement of men in family planning and reproductive health, fatherhood, gender based violence and HIV and AIDS (United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 2007). There are also now a number of Africa specific gender policies and commitments to working with men such as 'The African Charter on Human Rights and People's Rights', the Maputo protocol ratified in 2005 and the Southern African development community (SADC) gender protocol (Stern et al, 2009), and alongside these a number of new, innovative programmes targeting men and boys in Africa south of the Sahara (John Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa & Sonke Gender Justice, 2010).

It is within this context that the Khanyisa programme (York & Mlibeni, 2012) has been created and developed. Khanyisa is an initiative of the Khuphuka Project in rural KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Khuphuka (literally meaning 'to rise up' in isiZulu) works at the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, adopting a community development approach to the provision of primary healthcare services, orphaned and vulnerable child protection, youth work, information and advocacy services and food security. The organization observed that the young men of the community were not engaging in health promotion/education interventions whilst as a group simultaneously exhibiting the highest incidence of risk behaviours, and as a response developed the Khanyisa programme (literally meaning 'to enlighten' in isiZulu). Khanyisa is a transformative education project working with young Zulu men and boys (aged 15-25) from the premise that masculine identities can be explored and understood, and are open to change. Khanyisa facilitate a one year programme of workshops with groups of young men in wilderness settings, partnering with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. The focus of the workshops is Ubuntu, the Southern African concept of interdependence- that we can only be human in relation to others, and that through knowing this deeply, it becomes natural to care for and be of service to others. Using Ubuntu as a core theme, the leaders facilitate exercises which explore subjects such as masculinity, inequality, gender, violence and HIV/AIDS with an emphasis upon personal and group reflection and transformation.

Given the complexity of the sociocultural structures that young Zulu (and other South African) men are born into, and the apparent tensions between so called 'traditional' masculinities and gender equality, a model which utilises a universally accepted 'traditional' concept such as Ubuntu as a framework for an ethical investigation into the processes that reproduce male domination deserves further investigation. This study examines the experience of a group of young men and boys who participated in a 12 month Khanyisa programme, and thus, explores the programme methodology and its challenges, and suggests what contribution such an approach can make in transforming gender identities and achieving gender equality.

Transformative Education and an Indigenous Knowledge Approach

The emergence of transformative learning theory has been an increasing focus for researchers and is based upon several assumptions about learning and adulthood. First, adults (including young adults) are active, not passive, participants in their lives and are instinctively driven to make meaning of their world. Second, rooted in the tenets of constructivism, adults have significant life experience and this rich personal experience is what provides the basis for an established belief system (Taylor et al, 2012). …

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