Men's role in society in the spotlight
8 August 2011
Some of the biggest problems facing communities could be resolved, not by coming up with new laws, but by coming together as communities to discuss them, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize told thousands of men at a provincial Men's Imbizo in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.
"When we talk about women's rights, some men think this means the emasculation or the disempowerment of men," Mkhize said. "This is not true, because all nations that prosper can only achieve this through mutual respect and the working together of both men and women."
Speaking ahead of South Africa's celebration of the role of women as equal partners in society on National Women's Day on 9 August, Mkhize said people needed to come to an understanding regarding the roles of each individual in society, regardless of gender.
He made reference to Mkabayi, the daughter of Inkosi Jama – one of the founding fathers of the Zulu nation – who was able to take a decision that even men could not take in order to promote the advancement of the Zulu nation.
"Some of the problems that are big challenges in our community continue just because there is no one who is helping the younger generations as they grow," Mkhize said.
"Sometimes, all it took was members of the community coming together to give advice and to reprimand when things got out of hand."
He said that in the past there were mistakes that one would not dare to make, out of fear of bringing disrepute to one's peers.
"Young people are dying in droves, and this is largely due to HIV infections. Men need to be in the forefront of this fight against HIV infections, because if men look after themselves, their women won't be infected.
"Many women end up contracting the virus, even though they have never left their matrimonial home. This means that some men find themselves in situations and bring the virus back home."
Mkhize also spoke about rampant teenage pregnancies, which often result in abortions.
"I seriously doubt that a woman would opt for an abortion if her partner were to say, 'I will come to your family and we'll discuss how we deal with the matter'," he said.
Also speaking at the event, provincial MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu said: "Some men want to be feared and to be known as notorious. That is not how a real man behaves. What sets you apart as a real man is how you plan your things and how you care for your family."
Earlier last week, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, speaking at the National Women's Conference in Johannesburg, said a change of attitude was needed if society was to achieve empowerment of women.
He alluded to strategies, including men and boys getting an education in gender equality, which worked to help level the playing field for women.