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St Benedict’s School launches Manifesto on Masculinity

| January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

As a country, South Africa is scarred by a history of violence, particularly against women.

The country’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey1 reports that one in five women older than18 has experienced physical violence. This increases to one in three in poorer communities. In response to this scourge– a stain on the fabric of society – the boys and male staff at St Benedict’s School in Bedfordview in Johannesburg, have developed a unique Manifesto on Masculinity. Ratified at a special assembly on 24 October 2019, the manifesto is a proactive tangible declaration against femicide – denouncing
excuses and promoting behavioural change – ultimately holding the greater ‘Bennies’ community to a higher standard.

According to the school’s executive headmaster, Andre Oosthuysen, as a boys’ school, St Benedict’s watches with concern, as on a daily basis, more cases of abuse are flashed on the front pages of newspapers.


‘We are deeply distressed by the rise in gender-based violence and as a community we feel it’s important to take a stand that will live on beyond marches and calendar events like 16 Days of Activism. We may not be able to influence legislation but we can mould and shape the thinking of our
students.’

Increase accountability

It was in September 2019 when violence against women was brought to the fore by the deaths of University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana, University of the Western Cape (UWC) student Jesse Hess, boxing champion Leighandre Jegels, 14-year-old Janika Mallo, Belville resident Lynette Volschenk, and showjumper Meghan Cremer2 that the school strengthened its resolve to proactively participate in measures to
help curb violence against women.


Outrage on social media made it evident that women felt unsafe in their own communities and those who had not been personally violated, certainly knew of someone who was a victim of abuse.

A common thread in discussion groups was men’s reluctance to accept accountability for their actions,’ says Oosthuysen To develop young men who will protect and respect women, St Benedict’s advocates that change must start from within the school and so the process began. Discussions were held with boys at assemblies from junior preparatory to college level about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards women.

Oosthuysen challenged Grade 10 and 11 boys and male staff across the school to craft a Manifesto on Masculinity which would highlight how they would choose to behave towards women. Some of the 20 intuitive commitments made include to:
• Always call out other men on their inappropriate behaviour towards women.
• Report and put a stop to any form of abuse against women.
• Never assume anything about a woman because of what she is wearing.
• Never make a woman uncomfortable because of my presence.
• Never justify any unacceptable behaviour by saying ‘boys will be boys’.

A momentous occasion

‘Today’s signing of our manifesto was a momentous occasion where all the boys and men of St Benedict’s formally adopted their collaboratively written code. A declaration to the Bennies community, and to outsiders – it formalises our commitment to making the world a better place for all women and girls,’ says Oosthuysen.

Speaking out about the importance of the manifesto, Ayrton Griffin-Ellis, says: ‘I see our Manifesto on Masculinity as an important step towards a future where women are consistently valued for what and who they are: fellow human beings. It’s an admission and acknowledgment of the threat women face day to day due to the actions of men.’

Oosthuysen adds: “At St Benedict’s we focus on developing boys holistically so they will go on to be well-equipped adults who have empathy and compassion for all human beings, irrespective of gender.’

References:

1.See:http://www.governmentpublications.lib.uct.ac.za/news/southafricademographic-and-health-survey-2016

2. See: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-09-05-women-protestagainst-rape-and-femicide-saps-arrest-marchers-use-stun-grenades-and-turnwater-cannon-on-crowd/

Category: Summer 2019

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