'Man You Rock' Puts An Essential Twist on 16 Days of Activism Against GBV
'Man You Rock' Puts An Essential Twist on 16 Days of Activism Against GBV. Photo: Man You Rock on Facebook

While the majority of South Africa is focusing on Women and Children during these 16 days of activism against GBV, Fikile Cele and Youandi Gilain will be focusing on boys and men this year. “We have failed to stand up for our boys and men who also suffer abuse and mental health issues, we cannot support the one but not the other,” they say. Violence against men is worthy of attention.

Fikile Cele (22) is a model, motivational speaker, MC, influencer, life coach and Ambassador of Baby Savers South Africa. She loves children and their rights, empowering them to see their own potential and always to believe and love themselves. Her message to the world is that everyone should feel that they are “enough” no matter where they come from or their circumstances.

Youandi Gilain (38) is a director at Isiaiah 54 Children’s Sanctuary home for abused and abandoned babies and children in Durban, the founder and counsellor of Open Arms SA which is an online help desk for pregnant girls/women and birth mothers in crisis nationwide and the counsellor of Baby Savers South Africa. She has a big heart for people and encourages them to be the best part of themselves, and believe in who they are and are meant to be.

They both have found that there is a gap in the support of boys and men when it comes to abuse and mental health issues. So this year they have put their powers together to create awareness during these 16 days.

Women suffer a lot from abuse, gender inequalities etc, not just nationally but worldwide. We are in crisis which overall results in women being more vulnerable than men. But that doesn’t mean we should forget about our boys and men, say Fikile and Youandi.

We have created a culture of competitiveness and aggression, where we have silenced the men and just told them to fix themselves, without tools.

Society has been telling boys from a very young age into adulthood that “boys don’t cry”, “to man up”, “not to be such a baby” when they show emotion.

No one wants to speak about it…

Abuse against women and men are totally different but it is worth being addressed. The sad part is that there is hardly any statistic on male violence, specifically sexual, as it is a hidden issue and no one wants to speak about it. We are all too scared to address and create awareness because it could distract from the crisis of GBV (gender based violence) against our girls and women. This needs to change, our boys and men need to know that they matter too, that their pain is real, and they deserve to be heard and helped.

Boys and men hardly report any abuse due to cultural expectation of masculinity, such as that men are stronger than women, stigmatisation, isolation, ridicule, shame, not being believed, guilt, homophobic backlash, loss of access to children, etc

Long term impacts of Gender-Based Violence in boys and men include:
Depression, suicide, STIs, violence, substance abuse which then leads to the crisis we are facing as women. If we want to stop abuse against our women and children, it is time to include our boys and men and change the way we raise and address them. For too long we have been raising boys into broken men and then expected them to be whole.

For too long we have been raising boys into broken men

Youandi and Fikile believe it is time to change these 16 days of Activism against GBV. We cannot expect boys and men to understand the movement to protect women and girls if we are not willing to listen to their feelings and emotions too.

It is a fact that if you allow people to voice their emotions and feelings it makes it easier to deal with them and those of others. Which results in better communication and of course people that feel heard, understood and supported.

Our aim is to give boys and men their voice

“This year we will be focusing on the abuse and mental health of our boys and men.
We will be creating an online podium where we share stories, information and make it interactive for our men.  Our aim is to give boys and men their voice, allowing them to share their feelings and stories, where they will be heard, empowered, encouraged and supported and to create a network of people and organisations that are able to assist boys and men in their crisis,” say Fikile and Youandi.

“We will be doing this through our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram called Man You Rock. Come join us as we journey with our boys and men, you can share your story with us anonymously, interact and show support in the comment section or let us know how you or your organisation is able to assist our boys and men when they need it the most.”