‘Toxic’ masculinity needs to change, say churches

Churches have launched a new programme targeting men as frontliners in the bid to stop gender violence and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

“Boys and men should know that it is not enough to be men. We ought to be human.” – William Guri
“Boys and men should know that it is not enough to be men. We ought to be human.” – William Guri

Called Transformative Masculinity, the programme aims to help churches and other organisations achieve professional levels of efficiency, co-ordination, capacity building and communication in all HIV-related work.

William Guri, regional superior at the congregation of The Most Holy Redeemer explained: “Male involvement is very important so that men are given a platform to play a helpful role and complement what women are doing and what they have done so far in fighting the spread of HIV and gender-based violence. This is important so that all the work that has been done by women’s organisations is not lost.”

Bringing an ecumenical dimension to the churches’ care, education and counselling work is seen as complementing work done by women’s organisations involved in influencing behaviour change among African men. Churches can use their influence as a tool to help bring about change.

Guri said masculinity was learnt, and not determined, and it needed a positive action to change attitudes. Society needed to change toxic masculinity, which included violence, passion killings, alcoholism, dangerous driving, rape, political violence and the spread of HIV.

EHAIA, the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa, programmes cover Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.

“We work with church leadership in the hope that information shared will cascade to the communities, as the leaders will use the pulpit to spread the message of transformative masculinity,” said Guri.

“There is need to raise awareness that there are many ways of exhibiting your masculinity without engaging in dangerous and negative behaviours.”

Guri told The Zimbabwean: “Equipped with information, training and resources, the church can be a force for transformation, healing and hope. The challenge is to get men to unlearn and adopt new ways of being men.”

The initiative also recognises that it’s not possible to construct a new masculinity without women’s involvement because mothers play a part in shaping masculinity.

“Boys and men should know that it is not enough to be men. We ought to be human,” said Guri.

Post published in: Analysis
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