Mbulelo Dyasi – Eastern Cape
I was born in Ilitha Township near Berlin in South Africa, married to with two beautiful girls. I became active in politics at the age of 13 and served in many structures of the ANC. After 1994, I became interested in the NGO sector and later became part of Umtapo Centre an organizations that facilitate Peace & Anti-Racism and serves as National Assistant Secretary for Peace Africa Youth Forums of South Africa and also National Trainer for Peace & Gender Programme.
In 2003, I represented South Africa in an Exchange Programme between Belfast City of Northern Ireland & City of Durban on Peace Missions and worked with various youth organizations in Ireland and also in the United Kingdom.
In (2003) the same year I got infected with HIV and later in 2004 married to Chumisa who is also HIV Positive. We both became the face of HIV Prevention Campaign in the Eastern Cape, promoting couple testing and publicly pledging not to infect other people.
As an ordained Priest/Pastor, I became an International Motivational Speaker. As former AIDS Ambassador of the Eastern Cape, in 2008 I was invited by US Department of State, US School of Graduates through US Embassy in South Africa and visited 6 states in the United State of America, sharing experiences. Attended US HIV Prevention Conference as an observer and was honoured by attending and participating in the International Leadership and HIV Prevention Programme in Washington DC by USDA School of Graduates. Currently, I am working for Promotion of Rural & Urban Livelihoods supported by Office of The Premier in the Eastern Cape.
How did you become involved in working with Men and what do you think are the key things we need to focus on?
In high school, we introduced external studies through workshops and trainings. My first workshop was on drugs, violence against women and substance abuse and it was organized by SANCA and Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre. By that time I was doing grade 9 and other kids used to laugh at me as if I was crazy and gender issues were not popular in our community, even teachers could not understand.
1998, Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre initiated Men’s Forums and I became a trainer of human rights and gender equity. After grade 12 the programmes were introduced to outside the school environment. Today I am serving on SANAC Men’s Sector National Committee (NEC), am chairperson of Eastern Cape Men’s Sector, Brothers 4 Life Provincial Coordinator in the Eastern Cape and Executive Chairperson of the M.Family Foundation SA a legacy programmes that seeks to engage families on issue gender equity.
We should focus on engaging people then educating because people do have information. People are using traditions & religious practises to justify their behaviour that is why we need more engagement. Creation of Men’s Dialogues and Brothers for Life Clubs can make a difference in religious platforms including the involvement of traditional leaders not as custodians of culture but as part of our society.
Recently civil society organizations came together on the 04-06 November 2010 in Gender Based Violence & HIV Prevention Conference and the chairperson of the Conference was Chief Zanoxolo Mjoji from Contralesa. The involvement of Traditional Leaders must be at the level of equal partnership, example: ritual sexual violence by young men from initiation schools has nothing to do with traditions and custom but it is happening.
In this case, we do not expect anybody to defend such crimes as old tradition. If a stakeholder becomes gatekeeper in any development where one would say ‘you cannot talk to this community without stakeholder A’. That’s where the problem is. In democracy people must be allowed to participate in any discussions without fear of any structure. If people are fed up with traditional male circumcision for instance, their choice and opinion must be respected.
What do you think of the GBV problem in South Africa?
Since we changed gender equity to gender equality everything changed in South Africa. To most men, gender equality is about taking power from men to women by state. To most indigenous men, this is a war between men and women. It was better during the days of gender equity because we were focusing more on both men and women being far to each other. Gender equity is about fairness not power transfer.
The most painful part is that, even rural & semi urban women do not believe in gender equality and they regard gender equality as a myth that creates tensions in their families. We should remember that to some people, abuse is comfort zone due to privileges and benefits from the perpetrators because perpetrators are bread winners and providers at home.
Have you ever had any personal experience with gender based violence?
I used to beat my girlfriends because I did not know that I was doing something wrong. To me beating a woman was part of our society norms. Practically, after initiation school I was told to identify a woman, sleep with her and with the intention of cleaning bad luck and test newly circumcised penis.
Other painful part was that, if you sleep with a woman she must feel the pain and my understanding is that organism was a reflection of pains and satisfaction. Truly speaking, I grew up as an abuser not knowing all the facts about gender related crimes.
What do you think can be done to improve this situation ?
Unfortunately, young men from initiation schools do practise”ukukutshwa kwe futha” ritual sexual violence against women and girl child. More divisions in our families are still there because men feel strengthened by change in our society. In the Eastern Cape rape and violence against women and the girl child is more popular than other crimes according to NPA and Justice Department. Another way of addressing these crimes, Train more men in clubs and men’s groups and have ambassadors each province and partner with Department of Justice.
As a public figure, what role will you play in helping the communities?
First thing, the use of indigenous languages was crucial because English is associated with western & British culture by locals and there more we use English is there more we fuel attitudes and resistance. We must speak the language of locals and be able to translate policies and acts in local languages including sign language.
I am prepared to use myself and break silence on harmful cultural & religious practises. I am currently writing columns and also a regular radio commentator on health matters.I am going to use any free slots to address gender imbalances of the past and crimes on women and the girl child.
Anything you want to add?
“I Pledge not to infect anyone with HIV and promise to look after my children. If I am not satisfied about something or my wife does something wrong that does not mean that I must beat her, ill-treat and treat her as sub human. I am a brother for life…