As a woman I am horrified at the current state of affairs – and you should be too.
I won’t go into detail, but even the most cursory glance at headlines will bring a visitor up to speed, and locals have had a hard time avoiding the news this past week or two.
As a mother, I am aware of the burden of responsibility I bear. Raising two children in this climate is hard, and I often speak to other women and mothers about how to protect our children, while also raising them to become responsible citizens.
But a recent conversation with a mom friend raised this point:
I know how to raise my daughter so she can avoid becoming a victim, but do I really know how to raise my son to not become a perpetrator?
It’s not really something I can leave to my husband: are men solely responsible for raising the next generation of men?
But children observe and learn from both parents, from everyday family interactions and from examples provided by family, so the responsibility is ours together.
Except, a third of South African children are being raised by single mothers. It would seem that South Africa is also facing a crisis of missing fathers.
And then, since so many men are committing such horrific crimes against women right now, what does that say about our own parents, the previous generation of parents? If this was their responsibility, where did they go wrong? What did they do wrong?
Then there is school: surely schooling has a huge role to play in teaching our children to be kind, to have empathy, to say no and to stand up for others?
And the government? The police? What about men?
Men form the vast majority of perpetrators in gender-based violence and anyone who wants to argue that with me can get in line.
Who is responsible for making a change?
We asked South Africans who they feel is responsible for fixing the problems we face, and the majority (47%) agreed that parents must bring up children with more respect for others.
Then came the government, tasked with providing strong leadership, then men in general and then the police.
Last on the list, a tiny strip on the graph, came schools: just 2% of South Africans hold schools accountable for teaching decent morals and behaviour.
Yet our children spend many hours at school every day.
So much of their social learning comes from their school experience. I can spend time and energy investing in teaching my kids how to behave, how to treat others, to have respect for all life, but then I send them out to be influenced in a thousand ways by their peers. Ways that I cannot control.
I, alone, don’t have the answers to these questions.
As a mother of a boy and a girl I will do all I can to teach them to be good people. But I am also aware of my privilege. I have access to resources, I have a husband who parents with me, I have a solid support group and a stable income.
Too many mothers are left to fend for themselves, with limited resources, and they should be able to trust the schools to curb misogyny, to put a stop to gender-based bullying and to teach all students respect and empathy.
I’ll do my best, but in order to succeed South Africa as a whole needs to improve.
If you would like to share your school’s primary prevention initiatives and awareness programmes, or your ideas or thoughts on these contentious topics, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.