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Men-to-men: Be a man, my boy

When *Tshepo Mofokeng was 10 years old, he witnessed the rape of his 17-year-old sister.

While the armed attacker told the little boy to lie down and not watch, he can still hear his sister’s screams.

After the attack, the man ordered the siblings to run and not look back. As they painfully made their way home, his sister made him promise not to tell a soul of the rape. Mofokeng kept his word but the secret made him very bitter.

“As I grew up, I would see the rapist around Katlehong and I grew more and more angry. I could not accept that he was getting away with his actions.”

When he was an older, strong teenager, Mofokeng could no longer curtail his rage, and he would assault his sister’s attacker whenever he saw him. He went from being a peaceful child to an angry youth.

Two things saved Mofokeng from his violent path. Firstly, he was blessed with a father and older brother who knew that violence was not the answer and while they did not know why Mofokeng was acting out, they were able to guide him back onto the straight and narrow.

The second was the intervention of railway police who witnessed Mofokeng’s last attack on his sister’s rapist. The rapist was left with a broken leg but when Mofokeng explained to the railway police what the man had done all those years ago, they decided to let the youngster off with a warning. The rapist was taken to hospital and did not press charges.

Attacks on women remained commonplace, however, and Mofokeng was increasingly concerned. While a Pretoria Technikon student, he helped form a club to sensitise men to their role in society and in 2004, he registered the South African Men's Action Group (SAMAG) as a non-governmental organisation.

Today, SAMAG has 10 full-time employees and a footprint in Gauteng, the Free State, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. It is committed to fostering social change.

Its primary message is ‘Real men don’t abuse women’. “Real stands for Responsible, Enlightened, Archetypal (exemplary) and Loving,” said Mofokeng.

“The majority of men have been influenced by patriarchy. They had been beaten as a child and do not see why they should not raise their children in the same way. In many cultures, men are dominant and women are seen as being on the same level as children and therefore it is seen as acceptable to discipline them in the same way,” said Mofokeng.

Everyone has a role to play in changing mindsets, said.

He believes children should be raised without gender stereotyping. They should be  treated as children rather than boys and girls and fathers should play a hands-on role in the children's lives.

*Tshepo Mofokeng not his real name.