The Men in Black Doeks will be speaking out for change at various events, while wearing their black doeks, to raise awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) on Women’s Day and during Women’s Month this year.
NGO, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers will be exploring the significance of including the boy child in conversations which ultimately seek to alter dysfunctional patterns of behaviour within societies. The campaign is in collaboration with Generation Equality Forum and #MenInBlackDoeks. Activities which will mostly be in the form of a Twitter Spaces Series @ActivateZA, begin on Friday, August 6, with a representative from UN Women unpacking the theme and setting the context.
There will also be a #SelfieChallenge from August 9, which will continue for the remainder of the month. In solidarity with women, Activate asks men to take a selfie of themselves wearing black doeks and in their caption, explain why they resonate with the campaign and how they are pledging to curb the scourge of GBV. On the same day, Activate will be in conversation with Sam Beynon, a public servant, on Facebook LIVE @ActivateLeadership, getting her views of the campaign and how this can influence policies, if any.
Youth activist and founder of the GBV awareness campaign, Men in Black Doeks, Mordecai Ndlovu, launched it as a programme of cultural activism where men wear traditional black head wraps/headscarves and take to the streets to spark a conversation and raise awareness of the effects on society of GBV. He explains that in African society, women wearing doeks represent a cultural symbol, giving a woman the opportunity to maintain modesty and privacy from men. The head wraps are also associated with wealth, ethnicity, marital status, mourning or reverence in women.
He began the campaign during the pandemic last year ahead of Women’s Day after GBV cases spiked disastrously under lockdown in South Africa. Ndlovu wanted men to stand up against the scourge of gender-based violence and be part of the solution, not the problem.
“This is a socio-economic issue. We needed men to be part of the conversation around combatting GBV and find ways to rehabilitate the nation. It is important for men to observe their behaviour in society. We need to give the next generation cultural direction that says a man does not violate the freedom of a woman or child. It needs to be entrenched in our culture,” explains Ndlovu. He is also part of the 4,500 strong youth leadership network of NGO, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers.
“At first wearing a doek was uncomfortable. But the conversation is also uncomfortable for many men, but we need to have it. We also realised that we need to have programmes to reach our boys to make sure the next generation does not face the same challenges. If we as a nation are going to transform as a society, we need to launch programmes that speak to the young boy about GBV and mentor young men and take that conversation and educate the boy child on what they need to change to transform our society,” Ndlovu emphasises.
For Women’s Day this year, there are various running challenges virtually and in real time on August 9 to raise funds for the GBV education programmes which Men in Black Doeks are launching this year. Ndlovu hopes to also raise funds for his initiative to provide shelter and counselling services for those who have been victims of GBV.
Participants can sign up for a 5km, 10km or 21km virtual run in a black doek to raise awareness, at www.meninblackdoeks.com. There is an entry fee. In tandem, multiple distance runs are being organised by running clubs in Tembisa and Mbombela, where men will run in black doeks in honour of women who have lost their lives to GBV and to raise awareness of the issues.
The movement is also hosting an activation at Norkem Park High in Gauteng, with schoolboys on Women’s Day, complete with their black doeks, for their first peer education session with young men on GBV issues.
“We need to show support for the transformation of our country, and we need men in the conversation around equality. It is so important to find synergies in this debate, not tension between men and women. We need to show solidarity around GBV and as men we need to ensure there is success in this conversation on equality, so the next generation of young boys understand gender equality, so we become a much better society,” Ndlovu concludes.
Partners include Activate Leadership; Aido International Network; South Africa Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; and the Mpumalanga CANCA and Mpumalanga Runners United.