By Kabelo Mollo
16 days of activism against women and children abuse has begun. As far as I knew this was a South African campaign specifically started by POWA (people opposing women abuse).
However, I see the Kingdom has adopted it as well. And well we should with the escalating numbers of abuse of those most vulnerable. This past Monday on the usual twitter space that I host I wanted to have a frank and cerebral discussion around what possible solutions to this scourge might be. What interested me was the lack of participation. The space normally has 90 to 100 attendees. On this occasion it had 30.
I have been thinking about what might have led to such a poor performance of this week’s space. First, I wondered whether the fact that I’m a male attempting to moderate such a discussion might not have been a problem? Then I wondered whether this is a nuanced conversation that actually required expert participation and then finally I started to wonder whether it was perhaps a painful conversation for the victims of abuse.
Adulting has taught me the unfortunate truth that there are so many victims of this crime. People we interact with daily. People we’d never guess had endured such a thing. Equally there are as many perpetrators who laugh with us in malls and bars, who seem completely normal but actually have a streak that turns them in to monsters.
I figure, now that the dust has settled and my ego has recovered from its bruising, there a number of reasons folks would not have joined Mondays space. There are males who would’ve felt that it would just be another session of men bashing. Men are trash! Men are this, that and the next thing without underpinning some contextual nuances. I see it with increased frequency on social media. Then I guess for females they’d have feared being gaslighted) by a litany of accusations from men who haven’t bothered to listen nor attempted to change toxic behaviors and habits. I imagine for many victims who have been unable to talk about their experience a heading like “solutions for GBV” might be triggering. All of these realities notwithstanding, it’s quite important we have these discussions in my view. We can’t just keep going as if things are normal.
I was saying to someone, the 16 days of activism are clearly not effective or else we wouldn’t have them every year. We need to find a new and different sustainable solution. I don’t know what that solution is being a layman but I do know some problem areas. I have written before about the all boys school I grew up in and the insidiously toxic misogynist culture that existed. The bigoted locker room jokes and off colour stories shared by us in those circles. That’s a start! Boys should be made to understand those kinds of things are not acceptable. I don’t know what those environments are like now, I haven’t been a schoolboy for twenty years, but I hope those kinds of interactions have been weeded out and replaced with more sober, less hurtful jocular vibes.
While the space wasn’t that well attended those who did attend dropped their usual pearls of wisdom. One contributor spoke about power dynamics and how to equalise them, it was her assertion that men have been dominant over an extended period of time because of economics and resources as well as the physiological might. She posited that if the economics and resources were equalised, the physiology wouldn’t really matter. I thought it was a fair point which would require some societal shift. It was also repeated by every speaker that there’s no silver bullet that would solve all the problems. Every solution would need effort, time and generic buy-in. I thought that was also a fair reflection.
For a long time I suppose rather glibly blamed the problem of GBV in South Africa on the Apartheid ethos that sought to dehumanise the black male by removing them from their families and loved ones and attempting to turn them in to soulless labourers who’s only worth was related to the amount of rock they broke and resource they extracted. The psychological apartheid machine was head and shoulders above any other aspect of their brutality. This is why I have often reacted with shock at horror stories of GBV here in the kingdom. I always thought Basotho men revered, respected and honoured the women folk. It breaks my heart that, that isn’t the reality and my brethren are monsters who inflict hurt and pain on the pillars of our society.
I feel drained writing this because I think of the numerous victims of this craziness and then I think about the perpetrators roaming freely. I really, really hope we’ll find a solution to this crime, because the current status quo is not sustainable!