A message to men

2007-12-07 00:00

I am from Trust Feed. I grew up in a poor family. I lived with my grandmother, because my mother was working as a domestic at New Hanover. She was a single mother, but she was always strong for me, as she is now.

I started school in 1989 and tried to work hard, but we often didn’t have food in the house and I struggled to concentrate when I was hungry. My mum was the breadwinner and my granny did not earn a pension, so the smaller children and I often didn’t have proper uniforms or enough food to eat. However, I managed to get my matric in the end.

When I was younger, I used to like rushing after girls, because the older boys said if you didn’t have a girlfriend you were stupid. Since all my friends had girlfriends, I wanted one too. I was only 15 when I started to realise that if you get involved at that age, you start doing bad things like drinking alcohol, smoking and fighting with other boys.

If you found out that your girlfriend was involved with someone else, you would fight with her, maybe beat her. That was not a good thing. I remember with my first girlfriend, in Standard 7, I found out that she was involved with my friend. I beat her so badly she ended up leaving school, because she was afraid that the other schoolchildren would laugh at her and she was afraid of me.

In 2001 I joined the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa) activities in my community. I realised then that one should not abuse women and children. Pacsa helped me a lot, because I had not had a father to guide me. The programme taught me how to communicate with other people and take care of them instead of fighting.

One of the workshops I attended was the Healing of Memories. I listened to the women’s stories about how they had been abused by their partners and it made me realise how it feels to be a woman. I thought about my mother and how she had been left by my father. One of the women at the workshop said she had been infected with HIV because her partner was HIV-positive. When she found out her status, he was so furious that he left her.

I realised then that I had done some bad things to the women I was involved with. I started to see that as a young man I needed to take responsibility, to take care of other people, rather than just looking after myself only. But it was hard, because the men who were my friends put pressure on me and asked me: “Why have you changed?”

I tried to change my friends and tried to go to church, to become more motivated. Some of my friends went to church, but still carried on behaving badly during the week. They don’t go to church anymore. In the end, they left me alone, but I received help around issues of morality from the church, my friends in Masibuyisane and Pacsa.

I am now a lay minister in my church. I am in love with a woman from Pietermaritzburg. She is a good person and I am hoping to marry her one day. Now, when things go wrong, we sit down and talk about issues, and I also try to encourage her in her life. For now, things are good. She is also a person of faith and we are in the same church.

When I became unemployed, I started working as a volunteer. I worked for a while with Noah, teaching children basic computer skills, because I wanted to do something for children to uplift their standard of living. I never thought I would ever work with children, but it was a blessing to me. I helped them with their problems, motivated them and gave them hope. I tried to teach them to understand the issues in their community and to participate as they got older. They need to see people who are living in a different way, doing good things as role models, rather than admiring the things that are not good.

I am involved now with Young Christian Workers, trying to encourage young people to take a stand regarding issues of unemployment and to engage the government around creating decent jobs for young people. I work part time in Trust Feed with Pacsa and I am also a leader in the Masibuyisane Reconciliation and Development Organisation. Our aim is to build a community of hope, where people can understand the importance of reconciliation and bring about development in our community by working together. It is time to move forward and leave the old divisions, and we need to avoid fighting between political parties.

What I want to say to the young men out there is that they must take charge of themselves and take responsibility for their lives. They need to believe in God in order to find direction in life. Otherwise they will end up nowhere — or maybe even in jail.

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