Women raise voices in initiation debate

2013-07-14 14:00

“The women were angry and they said their say about their children dying and what’s more, the men really listened,” says film maker Mayenzeke Baza of a ground-breaking meeting in East London.

The meeting on Thursday at the home of Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, the chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, included women chiefs, community leaders and health workers.

In a rare display, women were asked to contribute to what has previously been an all-male debate around initiation practices.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Baza, who filmed the meeting for a documentary – The Boy, the Blade and the Man – that he has been working on for the past four years and that has international backers, including the Hot Docs festival in Canada and Al Jazeera.

According to Baza, the women – notably the vocal Inkosikazi ND Mhlauli – passionately shared their frustrations of how they were not allowed to help their children because of all the secrecy.

“They said: ‘We raise these kids and they are taken away from us and we lose them.’ They actually said that the men need to stand up and be accountable.”

Baza said that the women stressed the difference between initiation and circumcision.

“The women said that being circumcised doesn’t mean that the boys come back as men. They come back and they are still violent. They must be taught to be men, not just be circumcised.”

He said the men agreed. “They said they are drawing up a ledger of all illegal surgeons in the province and are going to work with the police and make sure they are prosecuted.”

The women had to leave, though, when health MEC Sicelo Gqobana showed slides of infected penises and of boys after they were beaten at initiation schools.

Although Baza himself underwent the initiation and supports the tradition, his documentary advocates reform.



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