Today marks the 12th day of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children – but for Luyolo Lengisi and Siyabonga Khusela the campaign is more than just lip service.
Luyolo and Siyabonga (both 23), from Langa in Cape Town, host workshops on gender-based violence (GBV) in their community all year round.
The workshops are aimed at men and boys between the ages of 10 and 28 and tackle a host if issues, including GBV, consent, patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
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“Our main goal is to educate people around gender-based violence and femicide,” Luyolo says.
Through their organisation, Langa for Men, the duo also run healing sessions where victims of abuse share their experience.
“We make sure that whoever attends our sessions understands issues around catcalling and consent,” he says.
“We also speak about what the law says so men can understand that their actions can lead to serious consequences.”
The non-profit, which the pair founded in 2019, is backed by organisations such as TooMuchWiFi – which offers fast, affordable internet to underserved communities – and the Kolisi Foundation.
Apart from running educational workshops, Luyolo says they also host hikes, camps, meditation classes and marches for young boys in their area.
“We started this organisation to focus on the boy child and to help him fight toxic masculinity and other ills.”
It’s an issue close to Luyolo and Siyabonga’s hearts.
Growing up, they experienced GBV both at home and in their community.
“My grandmother was a broken woman because my grandfather abused her,” Luyolo says.
Siyabonga also witnessed his mother’s abuse at the hands of his stepfather.
The two friends bonded over their shared childhood experiences and became even closer when they heard about a woman who was raped and stoned to death in their area in 2019.
Around the same time, the rape and murder of 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana made headlines around the country.
Luyolo and Siyabonga were devastated by the teenager's tragic death.
The friends knew they needed to do something to help turn the tide of abuse.
They teamed up with youth in their area and led a march against GBV, which led to the founding of Langa for Men.
The organisation has since gone from strength to strength.
They now run a soup kitchen in the Joe Slovo informal settlement from Mondays to Thursdays where they provide meals and educate residents about GBV.
To protect and bring dignity to women, they also hand out pepper spray, whistles and sanitary towels.
“We focus on human beings – we try to point out that before you’re male or female you’re a human being, so we should treat others the way we’d like to be treated.”
Luyolo is determined to make a difference in his community by being a role model for men.
He hopes more men will become part of the conversation – and lead the change society needs.
“You don’t have to start an organisation to do so,” he says.
“You can start by engaging your family, friends and colleagues on these issues.”